My curious Kindergartener’s fingers had just brushed the strings of a guitar. Instead of hearing sonorous sounds like the kind that stream from the speakers in our kitchen, an atrocious sound filled the air.


“It sounds terrible! Why does it sound so bad?”

For a guitar to make beautiful music, its strings have to be tight. When a musician makes the strings tighter or looser, it changes the pitch created when the string is plucked. If a string is far too loose, all you will hear is a disappointing “thwump.”

That reminds me of life. I told my son, “Some things you are learning are hard and challenging, aren’t they? When you first learned how to swim, it was really hard. But as you kept swimming this summer, your muscles got stronger. Your lungs became able to hold more air. You got faster and better. But would you have gotten faster and swum better if you had never gotten in the swimming pool? What would happen if you just sat on a lounge chair instead of jumping in?”

On the other side of fear, unknown, and hard things are the delight and pleasure of a cannonball, the exhilaration of successfully snagging a diving toy from the bottom of the pool, and a splash war with the cousins.

Life is like that, isn’t it? I may wish for an easy life, for a tension to be resolved or for a challenging circumstance to go away. But I wonder how much music is made in a vacuum, or if harmony happens without work. As a musician, I know the answer—none at all.

Have you been hearing any disappointing “thwumps” lately? Perhaps you need to turn the tuning peg. Discipline begets discipline. What is one thing you can do this week that would be a tuning choice?  Romans 12:11 exhorts and encourages those needing to make disciplined choices: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Consider looking at the tension in your life as a God-given opportunity to make music.

On the other hand, are you hearing “twangs”? If an instrument is strung too tightly, if there is too much tension, music is just as much an impossibility. Instead of harmonious, well-plucked tones, there are tinny, tension-filled twangs. The next verse, Romans 12:12, is a slow exhale under stress: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Together, these verses from the apostle Paul encourage us to trust God for the right amount of tension and the right amount of rest. And we make music.

“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:11-12)


“Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.”

—Hudson Taylor