Poorly Played, Or Poorly Tuned?

Poorly Played, Or Poorly Tuned?

by Michaella Osborn, Boulder, Colo.


Imagine a 14-year-old being told on her birthday that her parents are going to pay for guitar lessons. She is ecstatic! This girl has wanted to learn to play the guitar for what seemed like “forever.”

When her dad FINALLY finds a guitar teacher later that year she is even more excited. Well, I’m not just telling you this heart-warming story to help me make a point. The girl in this story is me.

I started taking guitar lessons last spring, and to my frustration, it was a lot harder than it looked! Not only did I actually have to practice to get better—which was something that I had supposedly already accepted—I later found out that the action of the guitar (the part holding the height of the strings above the frets) was all out of whack, making it nearly impossible for the instrument to hold its tune for more than a few hours.

This coupled with the fact that I didn’t know how to tune a guitar made it very hard for me to practice. Although my dad knows how to tune a guitar, I was often too stubborn to let him do it for me.

You can see why I started asking myself the question, “Poorly played, or poorly tuned?” every time I heard a sour note coming out of my instrument, and when I walked down the music hallway at school.

While you might be tempted to think that they’re the same thing, that’s not the case. A poorly played note is usually an honest mistake—due to not enough practice, or the musician not paying attention to what they are doing. On the other hand, if the sour note is caused by a poorly tuned instrument, the musician could be playing what would be, under different circumstances, a flawless song.

The same thing applies to our hearts. The Bible often refers to our heart as a musical instrument: “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme…” (Psalm 45:1, ESV); “…singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19, ESV); and in the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” the lyricist writes, “Tune my heart to sing thy praise.”

So if our hearts are like instruments we can have “poorly played” actions, and we can have “poorly tuned” actions. The difference between these two is similar to the difference between a poorly played note and a poorly tuned one.

In the case of a “poorly played” action, we make a mistake—usually because we were not paying attention to what we are doing. “Poorly played” actions are not fun. They result in varying degrees of pain to ourselves, and the people around us, but are something that all of us do on a seemingly regular basis. A synonym for “poorly played” action is sin. Run of the mill, everyday sin.

Where “poorly tuned” actions are still sin, they are a different sort. We might call a “poorly tuned” action a habitual sin. Habitual sins indicate a “poorly tuned” heart or a heart that has wandered from God.

If we have a poorly tuned heart, most everything we do causes pain to ourselves and to those around us. The motives of a heart that has wandered from God are almost always selfish. Although a person with a poorly tuned heart may occasionally do something good, it is similar to a musician with a poorly tuned instrument striking a semi-coherent note. It is more by luck than anything else.

But thankfully, like me and my whacked-out guitar, we have a heavenly Father who is always willing to put us back on the right track.

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