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Guitar Lesson

I gulped as I watched his hands glide over the fret-board. This guy was good! I had heard rumors that he was a phenomenal guitarist, but I had not been fully prepared for just how skilled he was. I’ve been playing the guitar for more than 35 years, and I’ve had the privilege of watching (and playing along with), some fairly talented musicians. I’d rarely been around one that knew his craft this well.

I had hoped to break the “plateau” in my own repertoire of guitar moves, licks, and progressions, and as I watched his hand moving up and down the fret-board I could feel the slight intimidation of being “out of my league” for the first time in a long time. I had hired this man to be the mentor and teacher who would help me move to the next level, and I could feel a chill making its way up my back as I began to ponder the possibilities.

When he had finished a minute’s worth of playing, he stopped, turned to me and said, “Let me hear ‘ya, Mike. Let’s listen to what you can do.” As I was playing a few of the chords, progressions, and scales that I knew, I could see him shaking his head. To say that it caused anxiety would be an understatement. I’m pretty thick-skinned, but this guy meant business.

When I stopped playing, he clucked his tongue and quietly exclaimed, “I’m seeing a lot of show-and-tell here.”

“Show-and-tell?” I hesitantly inquired.

“Yeah,” he scowled, “it looks like you’ve had a lot of people show you some cool things over the years and you play well, but you’re going to have to go back to square one and re-learn how to play the guitar all over again. Your technique just doesn’t cut it.”

I was stunned. I had certainly expected to receive some critique from him, but a stinging revelation such as this (that I would have to go back to starting over), cast a dark shadow over the entire learning process that loomed before me. I’m certainly not the world’s greatest guitar player, but I have learned a few things over the years and can usually hold my own when playing along with just about anyone. His complete dismissal of my abilities cut me…deeply.

There were no words of encouragement (not even the hint of a smile), and the look on his face told me that this mentoring relationship would be over almost as quickly as it began. I had neither the time nor the inclination to be instructed by an individual who refused to take me where I was, and work with me from that point. If that made me look stubborn, I was willing to take the risk.

Some might consider it a mistake in not continue my lessons, but his exacting remarks took the excitement out of the learning process. In an instant, playing began to look like a “slog” rather than a joy.

We parted ways after three sessions, and I could feel a wave of relief washing over me as I drove away. I went home, pulled my guitar from its case and played a song for the pure enjoyment of it…and smiled. I have never again attempted to play the song he was teaching me.

I’ve thought about that encounter a great deal since it happened a few years ago  I’ve often wondered how my words might encourage or discourage people if they were to come to me seeking a better understanding of spiritual things. I need to be exceptionally careful as I interact with others. Their life experience is not mine, and their willingness to approach me in seeking spiritual answers doesn’t give me license to believe that they have to see it my way. God has a myriad of ways to reach people right where they are, and I shouldn’t stand in the way of Him helping them to take the next big step.

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About Michael Temple

Michael Temple

writes from Grand Forks, North Dakota.

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