25 Sep When it “Clicks” Theologically
The year was 1991; I was fifteen years old. For some reason, I was compelled to learn how to play the guitar that year. I may have been born into a very musical family; my dad was a drummer. His brothers were locally renowned as country and bluegrass musicians, and my uncle, Gordon Terry, had even been signed with RCA Victor as a recording artist. Everyone played an instrument but me. Or perhaps the motivation came from my peers all seeming to have found their niche – whether in athletics or academics. I, on the other hand, was a run-of-the-meal, C+ student. I needed something to set me apart. The sort of thing that would cause the girls to notice me.
I had tried to figure out the guitar before, to no avail. I had operated under the allusion that good musicians had some mystical gift – you either had it, or you didn’t. So I pushed my old guitar under the bed and figured it was beyond me. Until I saw a little blue brochure with an advertisement for continuing education classes being offered in our community. One of the subjects being taught was guitar by a local guitar picker – Marshall Lewey. For only $120, I could take nine classes, and I would learn to play guitar. What would it hurt? I didn’t make the basketball team, so I certainly had time on my hands.
The first lesson was the worst. He began by teaching us to tune our instruments. He said, “Gentlemen, if you aren’t playing with a properly tuned instrument, you will never learn to play by ear (meaning, without sheet music).” That night, we learned to find an “E” note on a piano and tune each string on our guitars.
The following week, we learned the “G Chord”. I remember my fingertips started hurting as I strummed the chord repeatedly. Mr. Lewey explained that the pain was normal. Eventually, callouses would form, and we would never feel that pain again. “C Chord” came next, then “D Chord.” “Now, Gentlemen,” Mr. Lewey said, “You have enough to play at least 70% of the songs you hear on the radio. I did not doubt that he was correct, but it was all so awkward. Before I could find the rhythm while strumming a “G Chord” the song would progress to a “C Chord.” I didn’t get two strums in before it went back to “G Chord.”
He continued to teach us other chord patterns, major and minor chords. We learned how 7th Chords helped in transitions. We filled our notebooks with charts that showed us where each finger was to be placed. Mr. Lewey would try to get us to play in unison each week, but it was less of a chorus and more of a racket.
Nevertheless, I practiced a lot. My parents tolerated my incessant strumming every single day. Then it happened – I had placed one of my favorite cassette mix tapes into my stereo and hit play while I worked through my chord patterns. A song came on in the Key of E just as I practiced strumming my “E Chord.” I recognized the notes. I accidentally stumbled across a chord in one of my favorite songs! I felt as though I had cracked a code. I wondered if I could decipher the other chords in the song. My guitar teacher said that E, A, and B chords typically go together. I strummed an “A Chord”; that was it! Then a “B-Chord,” Eureka! I had figured out the primary chords of one of my favorite songs. I quickly jotted down the chord progression, then started to strum along with the tape.
I had a decent voice, so I started to sing as I played. It all came together! It all “clicked”. I couldn’t wait to get to practice on Tuesday night and perform the song I had learned for Mr. Lewey. He was impressed! He said that I was learning faster than most. Finally, I had found something that I could excel at.
I began to carry my guitar with me everywhere. Practicing, learning new songs, and even writing some of my own. I will never forget the moment I played my guitar in the school auditorium, and Stephanie Sandlin asked if I could play “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. I felt like the Universe was finally working in my favor! Not only did I know how to play the song, I could sing every word. As I strummed a long, slow “G Chord” and sang with a perfect country twang, “He said, I’ll love you till I die…” I saw a tear flow down Stephanie’s cheek. I knew then my life would never be the same. Thank you, Marshal Lewey!
We can all tell of experiences when things just “clicked.” Practice, theory, and muscle memory work together until you can swing a golf club, type a letter, or drive a car without consciously premeditating every turn. At some point when you were learning how to do those things, there was probably a moment when it “clicked.” When the muscles start to fire in tandem, it almost feels magical when you experience it.
The same kind of thing can happen for a disciple of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you grew up hearing sermons and sitting through bible study classes. But all of the truth claims seemed independent of one another. Maybe it was even hard to remember what exactly you believed about this or that doctrine. At that point, many drop out, at least mentally. No longer do they “practice” the truth. No longer do they seek to learn and understand. For those who persevere, a series of marvelous experiences await them beyond comparison. My story of learning guitar is not worth comparing to the experience of theological truth “clicking” for the first time, the second time, and the third.
Theological enlightenment is like a red wire with massive electricity flowing through it, being touched to a dead wire. Suddenly, the connection brings immense power that can light an entire city. I want you to experience that. It takes time, study, and practice, but can and should happen. As you read this book, you will sense that the two wires are getting closer and closer. At some point, a stray wire will make contact, and you will experience a surge of truth. This is only the beginning. Once the wires are fully connected, and the power can flow freely – things will never be the same.