I’ve been pondering trading in my 6-string guitar for a while now. It was a good instrument, and served me well for almost five years. But last Sunday proved to be the time I would finalize the decision to trade it in.
I tuned the guitar to the piano in our worship space at 9:30 Sunday morning. When I picked it up to play just after 10:00, the top end of the instrument had fallen out of tune – perhaps not enough to make mother’s milk curdle, but enough for me to notice, and to strum only the lower end of the guitar. It turns out that the bridge was separating from the top of the guitar – definitely enough to cause tuning issues.
It would not have been too expensive to have had the bridge repaired and reaffixed, but I decided that it would be best to upgrade. I’m not disappointed that I made the change. The better instrument will help me provide better musical accompaniment. In short, I gave up something good in favour of something better.
Whether in our personal life of discipleship or in our church families, if we want to experience growth, it’s important for us to be willing to give up something good in favour of something better.
A guitar that I’d owned only five years held no emotional tie for me. It was not hard to give up. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves needing to give up good things that we do treasure in favour of better things that will help us grow in Christ. It can be really painful to give up something we care about even if we know it will make a positive difference for ourselves or for our church.
In the church, it can mean, for example, giving up singing our favourite music in order to sing music that will lead a new generation to faith in Christ. In our personal lives, it can mean giving up a habit or tradition that keeps us from going deeper with the Lord.
Singing our favourite songs is good. Celebrating a tradition is good. But something that brings about spiritual growth is better.
One of the few flowering bushes that I can recognize without remedial assistance is the forsythia. It’s the bush that’s bright yellow in the spring and deep green in the summer. One of the things I’ve learned (in place of learning the names of more bushes, apparently) is that pruning the forsythia will make it bloom more fully in the spring. If a forsythia bush could talk, it would probably not speak kindly to, or of, the nice lady with the pruning shears! Why? Because pruning hurts! But later, the bush would be grateful for the work done by the pruner, because pruning brings growth. The flowering done one year is good, but with pruning, it gets better the next year.
Jesus talked about pruning in this way. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (John 15.1-2, NLT). When we submit ourselves and our churches to God’s pruning, giving up something good in favour of something better, we honour God. And draw others to him.