A Beautiful Flaw and a Birthday Gift

We don’t make a real big deal of birthdays in our house.  So, when my wife asked what I
wanted as mine approached last month, I kiddingly replied – “I don’t know… how about a Martin 12-string?”

I wasn’t really expecting a guitar, but my flippant response did actually reflect a desire of my heart. Whenever I visit Guitar Center, I have to go into the acoustic room and check out the guitars – sometimes I’ll hang out and play for hours.  The Martins are always among my favorites – I love the warm sound and vibrant tones, plus the Martin 12-strings have excellent intonation all the way up the fret board. (In contrast, my old Alvarez 12-string doesn’t have great intonation if you get very far up the neck.  It’s a nice guitar  otherwise.)

One time while checking out a Martin 12-string, I actually wrote an acoustic piece in that little wooden “cave” where they keep the really nice guitars. It was as if the warm sounds and perfect intonation stirred up my creative juices, and this tune just popped out.

Owning a Martin has been on my “wish list” ever since. You know that list: the toys you’d like to have, but don’t really need. At times, my list has included a ski boat, a Mustang convertible, and LA Ram/Dodger/Laker season tickets. You relegate these wants to the “maybe someday” category because other things are more important. And really, I don’t honestly need them.

When my birthday rolled around, my wife Valerie and I ran a few errands and did some shopping. We swung by Guitar Center to take a peek, but I wasn’t expecting to actually buy anything. As I made my usual beeline for the acoustic room I saw it – hanging just
outside the acoustic room was a 12-string Martin marked WAY down!

It was as if this guitar had been exiled. The Martins, the Taylors, the Gibsons – these belong inside the acoustic room. In fact the REALLY NICE (read “really expensive”) guitars are in that “cave” or inner sanctum – the acoustic room within the acoustic room.

I was slightly shocked, to tell you the truth, and wondered if this was too good to be true. I snagged the guitar, took it in the acoustic room (where it deserved to be) and began to play. Everything checked out – warm sound, great intonation, straight neck, good action.

Valerie noticed the tag said there was a flaw, which explained the price drop. Initially I only found a small scratch (not worth worrying about) but later found the real issue: the heel of the neck had been cracked and repaired where the strap button was originally placed.

Hmmm. The guitar wasn’t perfect.  But, the flaw didn’t affect the sound. It was still a really nice guitar… and it was only half price.  Well, what do I do?

We are going through a tight time financially, so I really was hesitant to lay out the cash. I asked Valerie (who patiently waited as I played guitars and waffled) for her opinion. She said “You’ve wanted this for a long time, right? Happy birthday!” (I nearly teared up right there in the “cave” – my wife sure treats me right! Thanks, honey!)

Later, I realized my first guitar was a birthday present as well – from my mom on my 21st birthday, many moons ago.  That guitar (an ovation knockoff) wasn’t particularly well-made, and didn’t last forever — the neck warped over time and the intonation eventually went bad. But, in spite of the imperfections, I cut my teeth as a guitarist on that thing:  I learned to play, wrote dozens of songs, played at weddings (including my own), not to mention that I used that guitar in worship on hundreds (if not thousands) of occasions, between church, small groups or just hanging out at home.

The flaws with my first guitar actually influenced my style of play – the “action” was really bad, which made it difficult to play bar chords… so I didn’t, sticking primarily to open chords. And even before that guitar, another “flawed” guitar influenced my playing — my college roommates’ old guitar had a busted nut and no D-string. So when I was first trying to figure out stuff, I was doing three-stringed chord progressions up the neck of the guitar. (And I still tend to do that more often than play regular bar chords.)

And isn’t this the way God works with us? He takes us in, redeems us, renews us and then works through us just as we are.  And all the while our redeemed style – the personality of who we are in Christ — is very much influenced by the flaws that we had to begin with.

I’m still flawed and I know it.  But God chose me, redeemed me and is continuing to work on, in and through me.  And he’s doing the same with you, isn’t he? We are all flawed people, with warps and cracks that sometimes have us playing “out of tune”. But still, God chooses to play his music through us.

And so, I’m looking forward to making beautiful music with my new Martin 12-string, even with its flaws and cracks. It’s still a thing of beauty to me, and I love the way it feels in my hands. And I’m so thankful that is how God feels about us – he thinks of us as beautiful and he loves us, and he takes pleasure in working in and through us to bring “beautiful music” to this world that desperately needs it.

Have you ever had something that was flawed, filled with obvious
imperfections, and you loved it just the same?

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