I changed my guitar strings today. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but it is if you haven't changed your strings in ages. Worse, I’ve always been a sucker for a good metaphor, and an even bigger one for metaphors of my own – I like writing metaphors. Which means that as I do anything, I always look at it and wonder, “is God trying to teach me something here?” … at least I try to …
Anyway, I was changing my guitar strings and my wife was oohing and ahhing over the new, shiny strings that I was putting on, and “oh my”ing to the strings I was pulling off. And it struck me that my guitar strings are a lot like life, or maybe the church. Maybe both, we’ll see.
Ok, I know, they’re just guitar strings, but I’m constantly amazed that God’s built so much of Himself into the world around us – you can look almost anywhere and see some part of Him staring back at you just waiting to be seen.
Guitar strings have a life just like people do. They start out nice and shiny, all nicely wrapped in their little paper sheaths and in a nice purple box (I use “elixir” strings). I take them out, shove them into the little holes at the end of my guitar, string them up, and then cut the ends off the strings at their tip so they don’t hang over and poke people.
I could make a circumcision joke here, but I’ll just keep going …
When you’re stringing a guitar, you have to be careful that you don’t break your strings. Liz commented that they look like you could never break them, all strong and shiny, but I think that looks are often deceiving – put a string under just enough tension, and it’ll snap like … something that snaps easily. A twig maybe.
As you get each string on the guitar, then, you have to make sure that you increase the tension gradually, flexing each string and then easing off the pressure to stretch them out. Like flexing muscles, you have to work them into shape.
For the first few days after getting new strings, my guitar will constantly go out of tune. I could get all frustrated with this, but I know that they’re just guitar strings and they’re still getting used to being a part of my guitar. So instead of freaking out, I just re-tune and everything keeps going fine.
After a while though, and this varies, all of my strings will start to age. There’s a certain point-of-no-return, where every string is just a piece of junk, too old to be of any use. It’s got lots of decrepit black marks on it from use, and other parts of the strings are still shiny, because I’m not a good enough guitar player yet to use the high frets (I assume that really good guitar players throw out black guitar strings every time). It’s just before they get too old, though, that they sound the best; soft, flexible, and with a tone that sings.
Do I explain the metaphor, or should I just leave it out there for you to toy with? I think I’ll leave it for now.