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Use it or lose it

I started to learn to play the guitar “back in the summer of 99” (unintentional song reference!), after my parents had bought me an acoustic guitar. I had a beginner song book, and slowly went through the different chord shapes that you have to make with your left hand, whilst strumming with my right hand. To make those chord shapes with your left hand involves pushing down quite hard on certain strings with your fingers. If you don’t push down hard enough in the correct position, it doesn’t make the correct sound, so I had to practice again and again to get it sounding right.

Unfortunately, those steel guitar strings were quite unforgiving on my nice soft “never seen a hard day of work” fingers, and it gradually started to hurt after the first day. When I came to play the guitar again on the second day, it was like someone was cutting my finger-tips with razor blades, as my fingers weren’t used to pressing down on steel strings before. It was like this for the next few days, and I struggled to practice much, due to the pain. Eventually, my fingers started to toughen-up and I was able to practice for longer. Over time, I developed calices on my fingers which basically meant that the ends of my fingers were like steel, and no guitar string could ever hurt them again…….or so I thought….

Over the years, I’ve always played my guitar at least two times a week, as I’m usually involved in worship on Sunday mornings, which also includes a mid-week practice. However, following lock-down back in March, I only ended-up playing the guitar once or twice, which led to the softening of my finger-tips. I didn’t realise this at first, as the softening process had been a gradual one. When I was next down to lead worship a couple of Sunday’s ago, I picked-up my guitar beforehand to have a practice, only to find that my fingers were fairly tender and sore afterwards, (although not as bad as when I first learned to play).

I’ve been reading about the specific and detailed instructions that God gave to the Israelites regarding the construction of the Tabernacle and all of the sacred items that were stored within it. Some of the detail and precision required is mind-blowing and definitely beyond my technical skills (see my previous blog). However, in Exodus 31 verses 1-5 it says:

“The Lord also said to Moses, “Look, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, intelligence and skill in all kinds of crafts. He is able to create beautiful objects from gold, silver and bronze. He is skilled in cutting and setting gemstones and in carving wood. Yes, he is a master at every craft!””

God had assigned this challenging task to Bezalel, but had equipped him with a special Spirit-filled ability in order to achieve it. Sometimes our gifts may not be prominent ones, but the thing that really resonated with me from this scripture was how God had ordained this task for Bezalel, and had given him the ability to do it. In the same way, God gives us all a range of different abilities which are to be used to accomplish His purposes.

A footnote to Exodus 28 vs 3 in my Bible says “All of us have special skills. God wants to fill us with His Spirit so we will use them for His glory. Think about your special talents and abilities and the ways you could use them for God’s work in the world. A talent must be used or it will diminish.

The final sentence is quite a sobering one. Just as my calices softened over months of guitar inactivity (leading to even poorer guitar playing!), so our talents will also diminish if we are not using them. I want to encourage everyone, no matter how insignificant you might think your gifts and talents are, to use them to glorify God.

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