Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Paint Job or a Tune-up?

old piano“I’m not returning until you fix it,” bandleader Count Basie reportedly told a club owner whose piano was out of tune.

A month or so later Basie got a call from the club owner that everything was fine, so he agreed to come back with his band. However, when he returned he found that the piano was still out of tune. Basie was irate, “You said you fixed it!” he shouted.

The club owner calmly responded, “I did fix it; I had it painted.”

How often do people do a paint job when what is needed is a tune-up?

It’s easy to make things look better on the outside than they really are. A couple can decide to put a good face on their marriage in front of other people, when all they do is argue at home, and they’re sleeping in separate bedrooms. A good presentation is not going to save their marriage. What’s needed is a marriage tuning job–a change of thinking and reacting on both parts; honesty about how something offhandedly spoken made either partner feel; apologies for mistreatment, undeserved criticism, or a lack of consideration.

Jesus warned the Pharisees:

You hypocrites! You clean the outside of cups and dishes. But inside they are full of greed and uncontrolled desires. Matt. 23:25 ESV

Sometimes piano tuners have to do far more than just tighten strings to bring a piano into proper tune. Sometimes the pegs or broken or stretched strings need replacing, or the hammers or the felts on the ends of the hammers that strike the strings must be replaced. As long as the sound board is in good shape, I’m told, the piano can be brought up to a good tuning.

There are “Christians” who are overcome with a besetting sin, where the corruption is so great that major work is needed to deliver them from the havoc the enemy has been allowed to work on their spiritual response mechanisams. There are few melodious notes that come from their spirits.

Others face temptation, or a lack of trust in God; they have fears of personal failure or an unknown future; doubts about how they will survive sudden life changes; or a lack of strength in their spiritual walk. Many pretend that everything is okay when they know they are lacking the spiritual vitality they observe in others. They are afraid to speak of their need, when to share might result in healing prayers and loving encouragement from their stronger friends.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.     Psalm 32:3-5 ESV

Not all people who need a tune-up are wallowing in or struggling with known sin, pretending, like the Pharisees, to be more than they are.

I am one of those people who often keeps things to myself. Over the past 8 years of encounters with breast cancer (twice) and other physical problems which I believe are possible results from medical treatments received with the second cancer challenge, I have experienced times of doubt and frustration. I have questions and hesitancies: does God still do miracles today? If not, is that the fault of my lack of faith or the lack of faith of the body of Christ? Why do my sincere beliefs about God’s power and compassion not always appear to match my experience? It’s often hard to talk about these things openly, and the result is a feeling of loneliness.

I know what the Scriptures say about suffering:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom. 5:3b-5 ESV

However, I also know what the Gospels says about healing:

The news about Jesus spread all over Syria, and people brought all the sick to him. They were suffering from different kinds of diseases. Some were in great pain, some had demons, some were epileptics, and some were paralyzed. Jesus healed all of them. Matt. 8:24 ESV

and asking and receiving:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Matt 7:7-11 ESV

Life often hits us with stressors that cause us to lose our tuning; such as serious disease or painful ailments; there are job stressors, relational stressors, financial stressors, even weather-related stressors. Often people filled with such pressures appear to be strong and well-tuned, but when just the right string is plucked or the felt hammers strike a chord, the resounding notes are off key. Some who have by habit presented a strong exterior are now ringing out a discordant song: “God, where are you? I need to know you hear me and love me; that you will not abandon me or leave me in this place”.

It’s so easy to get internally out of tune – with God, with others, and with ourselves. God often allows trials, pressures, and changes to reveal to us that a thorough tune-up is needed; that there is a deeper issue we don’t see.

A combination of the following will tune us properly:

  1. honesty with ourselves about where we really are,
  2. vulnerability to share with others whom we trust and to solicit their prayers and insights,
  3. openness to the Master Tuner, and an invitation for Him to do His tuning job
  4. total belief in the words He has spoken through Scripture and/or the personal words or “rhemati”, which He speaks into our hearts–which means taking time to listen for His voice,
  5. and obedience to God in every area where adjustments are needed,

Painting the outside will not produce a life that sends out beautiful music when the Master Musician sits down to the keyboard. A good tune-up is key to a life song that causes others to stop and listen. An instrument that has been tuned to His specifications will produce a life-song that will bring both joy and encouragement to all hear.

So, which would you prefer? A paint job, or a tune-up? I’ll take the tune-up any time.

©2015, Marcy Alves

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