Discomfort Ye My People – Or Why Guitar Players Make Effective Christians

guitar-756326_640My development as a guitar player is seriously arrested.

I am a guitar player. I own one. In fact, I own two – a six-string acoustic and a twelve-string. I’ve played on church music teams. I can pick it up, finger some basic chords, and strum. By sixth grade, I could play simple worship songs and John Denver tunes (Don’t judge me; it was the seventies). I love checking out Simon Lyon and reading reviews on the best guitars for sale.

Here’s the trouble. I still play the way I did in sixth grade. The ten basic chords I learned from Ms. Basillion, my music instructor, remain, nearly fifty years later, the extent of my guitar playing ability. I suffer from arrested acoustic development. I’m tempted to learn to play more chords and songs but I’ll need to look into who does the best online lessons as I don’t have time to go to an instructors house. Sometimes I just think I’ll be forever stuck playing this way.

There’s a simple reason why this is true: to grow as a guitarist I must endure discomfort.

I figured out my own hampered picking method in sixth grade but it’s not a flexible hand position and doesn’t work with many tunes. Several times through the years, someone has tried to help me correct this but it didn’t take long for me to see it would take hours of finger-numbing practice to overcome the improper positioning. Proper hand positioning felt strange, unnatural, and downright uncomfortable. It wasn’t intuitive because at this point, my improper positioning is what felt right and strong.

Also, I’ve never learned bar chords. My fingers are short and stubby so I use that as an excuse but I know the reality is that my fingers are not an insurmountable barrier. Turns out, my unwillingness to endure discomfort is. If I committed myself to the work and to repeatedly instructing my brain that the discomfort signal it was receiving was actually the pathway to success, I would become a more effective and fruitful guitarist. Now, I’m not dead yet so I could still correct my guitar playing (but you suspect already this post isn’t about musical accomplishment).

A similar situation happened when I started karate in my forties. I had never done a push-up but they were a required element of the workout. I worked hard at them for months and proudly demonstrated fifteen in a row to my instructor. He wasted no time in explaining that my fifteen push-ups were completely ineffective because I didn’t have the proper positioning. (No wonder they came so easily.) In order to pass the test for black belt, I would have to execute 70 of these babies correctly. There was no way forward except to endure the extreme discomfort of relearning and building my way back up or remain a white belt forever.

This happens often in the church.

A brother or sister quietly mentions that they’ve given up reading the Bible because they don’t get it. They hear other people speaking about the Bible like a fount of comfort and insight but that’s not what happens when they read. So silently they’ve closed theirs and endure a sense of isolation to which they’ve become accustomed. Speaking up requires a level of discomfort, so does learning a new way.

Another brother or sister states that they doubt God hears them because they tried praying, sometimes they still try, but nothing ever happens. Not like what happens to others. Again, the situation crops up with sharing our faith, engaging in fellowship with other Christians, speaking hard truths, or worshiping in a new style. We take a stab at an aspect of the Christian life and settle for learning and practicing what is most comfortable even when we suspect (or are told) there is a pathway to greater effect and fruitfulness. The reason? To take that pathway requires us to endure extended periods of discomfort.

I’ve settled on my guitar playing because life is short and there are other things in which I choose to excel. I worked at the push-ups because I wantedguitar-806256_640 (and eventually earned) that black belt. I push through great discomfort to write for Jesus and I continue to experience sometimes unbearable periods of discomfort in order to grow up in Him.

It’s popular for Christians to say they’ve chosen a church or way to live because “I just feel a peace about it. This feels right so it must be from God.” There is a peace that comes from God but it often comes in the midst of doing things that don’t feel “right” at all. They feel hard, gritty, uncomfortable, and awkward – at first.

There are days I want to avoid God’s Word the way I avoid photos of myself or 360 mirrors – I’m not always up for the truth it reveals. There are times I want to believe that a simple five-minute prayer muttered over my day is sufficient and if stuff happens to me or to loved ones well, that was God’s will and there’s nothing I could have done about it. When the truth is that partnering with God in prayer moves forces in heaven and earth that affect us all. As uncomfortable as it is and as time-consuming as it is, prayer is a weapon against the darkness. What discomfort would you endure in order to protect your loved ones?

We’re shy about encouraging one another to grow in Christ. We don’t want to sound like we’re judging. But, other guitar players aren’t judging me when they tell me if I work hard to overcome my bad habits, I can improve my playing. My karate instructor wasn’t trying to discourage me, he was interested in my getting an actual benefit for my hard work. And mature believers aren’t saying we aren’t Christians or we aren’t loved by Jesus when they tell us there is a way things work and if we endure the discomfort of learning that way, we will be effective and fruitful in our knowledge of Jesus.

There is a way things work.

If we study under a master guitarist or an advanced degree martial artist, we expect to have to keep working, sweating, and enduring uncomfortable things for as long as we engage in the art. We have been embraced by the Master of the Universe willing to instruct us on the art of living and loving like Jesus. How much more willing should we be to endure discomfort in order to grow up in our faith?

Are you uncomfortable now? I hope so.

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    The Conversation

  1. Yes, Lori, I’m uncomfortable 🙂 I’m always amazed to hear that master musicians practice several hours a day. The truth is, they are still seeking a higher level. I happily settle in at a lower level in my relationship with God because the work to get any higher is more than I want to put out. I know He longs to hear me pray, “Lord, fill me with an unquenchable desire to grow higher with You!”

  2. Patsy Arrouet says:

    Lori, this piece hit the nail on the head for me. Literally. I’m a week and a half post op knee replacement surgery, and what hurts most is what I most need to do. Now I know why they send you to therapy…you need a drill sargent, not a sympathetic ear. Thanks for the concrete reminder. I have lately been stepping out in confidence that My Lord understands me and leads me, and gifts me with things I’m not to hold on to but give away to others. I’m learning more and more that He leads my prayers as well. It is humbling and exciting to be the daughter of such an awesome God. Pray I will soldier on with this knee thing and not be a wimp, and use my gifts of exhortation and encouragement to have the same effect in others’ walks with Jesus!