Time to Restring – Caleb Miller

When it comes time to restring one of my guitars there’s a pretty set process I go through. Typically I will restring the whole thing because a string has broken while playing. Call it OCD but I don’t like having one new string and five old ones. I can hear the difference. The new string is often much brighter and because of that, it tends to project a little more than the others. The symphony of harmony produced by six new strings (or at least strings of the same age) is a thing of beauty. With all the glory of an orchestra, the instrument sings. When that balance is lost, it’s like a violin is seated too closely to the listener, drowning out the other instruments.

When I sit to restring the guitar I don’t just attack the strings with a wire cutter and start pulling them out. First, I’ll start with the two middle strings – the ones whose tuning pegs are at the top of the headstock. I will loosen those strings all the way, a quarter turn at a time-by hand. Using a string winder puts too much unnecessary stress on the neck. Then I’ll continue moving outward alternating strings bottom to top until I’ve loosened them all completely. I still haven’t cut the strings for many reasons. A cut string has a unique ability to find your hand and stab it with all the force of a piercing needle thrown by an air compressor. It hurts, trust me. Once all the strings are loose, I’ll finally start cutting, again working from the top of the headstock down, cutting them close enough to still leave me a piece to hold while removing the leftover from the tuning peg. If there is a broken string, I don’t cut it again, it’s already broken!

After carefully removing the smaller pieces from around the tuning pegs, I’ll start removing the bridge pins, carefully making sure I don’t let the piece of broken string fall down in the guitar. At this time most might just start throwing their new strings back on so they can get back to playing. Not me. I’ll spend time cleaning every crevice of my guitar, removing dust, fingerprints, sweat (gross) and anything else foreign that has found a home in or on my guitar. Once it’s back to it’s pristine shine, I’ll start restringing.
I start in the same way I started removing the strings. Working from the middle out I will put the strings back into the guitar through the hole in the tuning peg but I don’t wind them until I have them all in place. Once they are all in place I’ll wind them starting from the middle. This keeps undue stress from being applied to the neck and body. After everything is carefully wound and the strings have been cut to length I don’t just jump into tuning my new strings. I’ll stretch them a bit before I tighten them giving them room to stretch as they are tuned. Typically I will tighten the strings beyond what their initial tuning is and then stretch them again. After that I’ll finally get out my tuner and start actually tuning the strings one at a time top to bottom and then bottom to top. This process usually takes two or three times before the strings actually hold their tune.

My guitar is like new.

When in the course of growth and change in doctrine and dogma we often find that one or two of our doctrinal strings have broken. Too many are simply content with just throwing on a new string. This causes disharmony in our beliefs. Too many also want to begin just cutting all the strings with no regard for what this will do to the body. Just as a guitar is not made to handle that amount of stress we are not made to handle that kind of cut.

The tension must first be released and care taken that we are not putting undue stress on ourselves. Only when the tension has been released can we begin cutting those old doctrinal strings carefully so that we do not stab ourselves on the old stuff.

All too often we want to just throw new doctrine in place with little regard for what this might do. We ought to take the time to clean up every crevice-not of sin but of hurt and bitterness. We should take our time and let those things be removed before latching onto any new ideas. The spirit of comfort is our guitar polish to help us get rid of pain.

Once we finally find the right strings for our guitar we need to string it carefully taking our time and not putting any undue stress on ourselves. We don’t need to worry about playing so soon that we don’t allow the strings the time to stretch us. We don’t need to worry about getting everything perfectly in tune so quickly that we don’t give the strings time to adjust. However if we will give ourselves or doctrine and body time we will find that our new strings hold a tune perfectly. They will be in place to help us begin to sing our new song.

A song that while fueled by brokenness sings healing and restoration.

A song whose every line is reconciliation.

A song whose melody captures every listener we sing it to.

That song is “you are included.”

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