The guitar shopkeeper held himself in check for about thirty seconds. Then he pounced. "I'm sorry," he said, "but that's not right. It's not a matter of deserving a better instrument. It's a matter of getting the best instrument you can ... because it's going to affect how you play." If I couldn't afford it, or it didn't really call to me, or a thousand other reasons, then I shouldn't buy it, he said. But not because I feel I don't deserve it. That would be the worst reason!
You're probably thinking, He was a salesman! Of course he's going to say that! But I think he meant it. I really wanted a guitar on his wall. It looked beautiful, and it played beautifully, and it would have taken my playing in a new direction. But I put it back. "I'm not good enough yet for a guitar like that," I said.
There is a measure of truth in what the shopkeeper told me that day. How often do we let an opportunity go by because we feel we don't deserve it? A painting in a gallery that speaks to us. An activity we've always wanted to try. A chance to let our little light shine. But no, we're not ready, we're not good enough, we're not worthy.
Last February my church gave me an extravagant gift on the occasion of my retirement. Knowing my love of music-making, they bought me a Collings guitar (an OM-2H, which is an Orchestra Model with a German spruce top and herringbone trim, if you must know). It is a work of art, a fine hand-crafted instrument, so fine that the previous owner, by his own admission, was too intimidated ever to play it. It came to me like new.
At first I thought I might be the same. Never, I thought, would I put a pickup in it, it would never leave the house, and I would only use it for recording. Thankfully, I began taking it out of its case and letting it speak to me. It wanted to be played. And it wanted to show me how to play it--gently, to let each note ring out. Last week I had a pickup installed inside it, so I can plug it in and use it in performance. Next week I'll be playing a short program using that guitar. We will both be very happy.
The point is, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Something in God's creation calls to us and we refuse the call because we feel unworthy. But doesn't this go against everything we have learned from the Gospel? It's not about worthiness. It's about grace. It's about receiving the gift with gratitude, and then putting it to the use for which it was created. Just like us! Sometimes it's about buying the damn guitar.