Bars Made of String

I was busy when he left the guitar.

“Give me a few weeks.  I’ll see if I can figure out what’s causing that vibration.”

He nodded, but he was frowning gloomily.  “It’s going to be bad.  Probably a loose brace.”

The gloomy clouds didn’t follow him out the door as I hoped they would, but simply hung in the air over that guitar case.  Or, so it seemed to me.

My few weeks passed.  Then a few more went by.  Every time I walked past the instruments waiting to be repaired, I could feel the gloom.

What if it’s a loose brace?

I shrugged off the gloom and continued on to other tasks.  Again and again, I ignored the guitar case sitting there.  

I didn’t open the case once.  Not once.

He came in last week.  “It’s been over two months.  Have you fixed my guitar?”

The gloomy clouds came to hang over my own head—the one I was shaking in embarrassment.  

“Sorry.  Give me another week.”

Out the door he went again.  I turned back to my work, worrying still.

What if it’s a loose brace?  It might even be broken.

The week has passed.  He called today.  The instrument must be ready to pick up tomorrow.  Tomorrow!

barsofstringTonight, the guitar lies on my work bench.  Dreading what I will find, I reach down to loosen the strings.  I can’t work inside the instrument until I get room to put my hands through the sound hole.  

Like bars of steel, the strings guard the entrance.  Perhaps I should just leave them alone.

What if it’s a loose brace?

Then a new thought strikes me.  What if it’s not?

What if it’s something really simple?  Easy to fix?

By now, I have loosened up the strings and, like a caged strong man in the movies, have spread them apart, bending them like—well—like string.  I insert my mirror and, shining a light on it, begin my inspection.  

Two months, I’ve waited.  And worried.

Five minutes—no, less than that—three minutes later, I have found the problem.  A broken string, fallen into the body of the guitar, has been trapped by the magnetic force of the electric pickup.  Trapped against the sound board which magnifies every sound ten-fold.

The tiny buzz-buzz-buzz of the metallic string against the spruce sounded for all the world like a disastrous structural failure.

I whisk away the one-inch piece of bronze and stainless steel, breathing a sigh of relief as I do.  Pulling my tools and my hand from the dungeon of my almost-failure, I let the bars—I mean, strings—spring back into place and I re-tune them.

Sitting on a nearby stool, I run my fingers over the strings, hitting a few familiar chords.  What an astounding result!  The tones radiating from the soundboard of the instrument are perfection itself.

Perfection.  And, I waited over two months to experience it.


What if?

Two months—wasted.

All of my life, I have worried about what is behind those doors I have never passed through.  All of my life.

Twelve years old.  I was with my family in southern Kansas visiting my great-aunt and uncle.  They had a farm in the gently rolling hills near the place my mother had grown up.  

Uncle Paul was old, but he hadn’t forgotten what it was like to be a kid.  While the old folks were visiting, he warned us to beware of snakes and sent us out to explore anywhere we wanted to wander.

That was how we came to be standing in front of the doorway into the hillside.  Anywhere we wanted, he had said.  This door looked interesting.  And scary.

“What if there are snakes?”  The shaky voice was mine.

My oldest brother laughed.  “What if there aren’t?”

His optimism notwithstanding, he was holding a stick in his hand as he pulled the door open.  We stayed well behind him, but eventually, we all trooped through the open entrance to the vegetable cellar.  It was not much more than a hollow in the side of the hill, excavated here and there to make room for shelves, upon which sat the bounty of my old relatives’ garden.  It would feed them through the winter.

There were no snakes.

I would never have known that on my own.  The door would have remained closed.  Funny.  Nearly fifty years on, I’m still afraid to open doors.

What’s behind the door in front of you right now?  Why aren’t you turning the knob instead of standing there, petrified?

If God brought you to the door, there is nothing behind it that has any power to doorway-521278_1280harm you.

He has given us the key to open every lock and will make provision for every obstacle we meet, once inside.  Just a note of warning—if you have to slip the lock with your credit card, He didn’t want you in there.  Some doors were never intended for us to open.

Too many times though, I have stood in front of a door to which He has given access and failed to go through it.  What if I fail?

We fail because we fear to try.  

Many more times than we meet insurmountable obstacles, we simply don’t attempt the deed at all.

Open the door!  

Go through it!

You might still want to carry that stick.



I will keep you and will make you…to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
(Isaiah 42: 6,7 ~ NIV)


There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky;
And you ask, “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling, 
What if you fly?
(Erin Hanson ~ Australian poet)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

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