Voices
Rob Cheney for WORLD

Guitar lessons

How shall we live if these are the "last last days"

Issue: "The schools that Arne built," April 11, 2009

There is a shop on Easton Road advertising guitar lessons for $20 a half hour. For years I have been asking God to let me learn the guitar. I finally realized why it wasn't happening: I wasn't taking the instrument out of the case. There is a lesson in that.

The Titanic was a bad deal for 1,517 people in April of 1912, but it has been useful as an example ever since. Constantly resurrected from the inky waters off Newfoundland, only to sink it again as a parable of whatever the lecturer wants to exploit it for, the Titanic's ghost continues to instruct: Do not test the Lord by calling yourself "unsinkable." Do not live in self-indulgence in the last days (James 5:5). Do not say "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" (James 4:13). What king goes to war without first making sure he has enough soldiers? Be prepared: have enough lifeboats on hand (Luke 14:31).

And this other lesson: Do not polish doorknobs on a sinking ship.

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There are two reasons why I have not made more traction on my beautiful yard sale Yamaha. (I got through Frederick Noad's "part one" and half of Mel Bay's "grade two" twice before tanking.) One is that although it is always on my daily to-do list, I never make it that far down the list. Other jettisoned detritus of good intentions include deep-cleaning of the house and letters to relatives in Korea. And the reason I never get that far down the list has to do with lack of competence on the preceding items on the list.

But the second speed bump is philosophical. As Koheleth mused, what is "good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life" (Ecclesiastes 2:3)? And not just generic days anymore, but the last days? Of course we have been in "the last days" for two millennia. But never before in the "last last days," which it seems to me, on alternate Mondays and Thursdays, we are in.

How shall I then live when Francis Schaeffer's How Shall We Then Live? is unprecedentedly pointed? What is the wise use of time while Rome burns? (The close kinship of fiddle and guitar is a tad uncomfortable, n'est-ce pas?)

Selected events of history now appear as bolder heads protruding from the river's surface, marking our species' crossing. There is Babel first, raising itself to the sky, and getting lopped off. Then Nebuchadnezzar's tree, leveled to a stump. Did you know that the unsinkable Titanic took about 2½ hours to sink, from 23:40 when the iceberg brushed the ship's starboard and seawater rushed the five forward compartments, spelling the luxury liner's doom?

Oddly, the first lifeboat launched contained only 28 people, despite a capacity of 65. There is always only a small subset of people who can see the meaning of small events at first-the child's marble, once stationary, now slowly rolling off the cabin table onto the deck floor.

"As she glorified herself and lived in luxury . . . in her heart she says, 'I sit as a queen.' . . . And the kings of the earth . . . will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, 'Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.' . . . What city was like the great city?'" (Revelation 18).

On the other hand, you can't just stop living, can you? Indeed, it's time to start living, if we have not yet started. Sleepers awake! Man your stations! Like Nehemiah's men in a similar crisis, work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other (Nehemiah 4:17). Be found in enterprise and not indolence when the Lord makes His appearance with uplifted hand, on a white steed, to an angel's shout.

I just don't know yet if that includes taking up guitar.

If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to aseu@worldmag.com.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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