A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to sing one of my favorite hymns in Spanish at our church’s Mexican luncheon, a fundraiser for our mission trip to Mexico to build a home. I haven’t played my guitar for awhile, and I thought it would be nice to accompany myself. I learned to play guitar many years ago, when I was in high school, and I played all through high school and college, and as a young mother and through my adult years, until carpal tunnel problems forced me to quit.
A few years after surgery I tried playing again, and I will never be able to play as well as I did when I was younger. The surgery was not a great success, and my hands can’t take much stress. After I had to start using a wheelchair, I found my guitar was much too big. I gave it to a lovely young lady in our church who sings like an angel, writes songs, and is learning to play guitar. I bought a half-size guitar, which fits my chair better, and went to work. And that was a problem.
I practiced too much. The guitar has steel strings, which I haven’t yet traded for classical nylon strings, and I had to practice to harden up the tips of my fingers. And I had to practice the chord changes, and the arpeggio strum. By the night before the luncheon, I was playing pretty well. But on Sunday my hands were cramping. I tried playing, but it was painful, and didn’t add anything to the song. By the middle of the second verse, I decided to go a cappella. It was so much better. Not worrying about the accompaniment allowed me to freely express the beautiful lyrics.
I was trying too hard to make it about me instead of about God by showing that I could sing and play. God gifted me with a good voice; it didn’t need the guitar to make the song any better. And by pushing my hands beyond their capability, I only hurt myself, for which I am still paying. All I needed to do was open my mouth and sing, and let God’s glory come through the song.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3
For those of us with limited energy, or capabilities, it is important that we stop and think about where we are applying ourselves. Is it really important that we accompany ourselves on the guitar instead of just singing? Do we really need to sign up for another committee or volunteer for another activity or chair another group, or bring refreshments to another event? I find it so hard to say “No.” I used to think Ado Annie’s song (“I’m Just a Gal Who Cain’t Say No”) was written for me. But God has patiently pointed out to me that I must say no. I simply can’t endure the strain - physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. If I want to give God my best, I have to learn to choose carefully what I can and will do, and not feel guilty about saying “No” to some opportunities.
Thank you, Lord, for the gifts with which you bless us. Help us to learn to use those gifts wisely, and to take care of our bodies so that we can continue to serve you. Help us to learn when to say “Yes,” and when to say “No,” and to do so graciously. Let us always be the reflection of your light and love in the world, drawing people to your kingdom. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.