I got my guitar back from the repair shop yesterday, a truly unfortunate happening for residents of the neighboring apartments. For with summer being greeted by the opening of our windows these unsuspecting bystanders might soon to be subjected mixed melodies of an acoustic guitar and noises resembling a hyena with it’s toe stuck in a trash compactor.
You see, my guitar has been in the shop for quite some time and I’ve missed it dearly. Daily I would glance towards its stand with a whimsical sigh, wishing to take the neck in my grasp, to pluck a melody from its strings. At times I would hear songs on the radio and anticipate arriving home to practice them myself, returning instead to my guitar’s vacant seat.
And yet when I brought the guitar home today I placed it in its familiar corner. As soon as I set it down, my mind was drawn away and I hurried on to some other task. I still haven’t touched it.
I was out jogging this week when a large bird swooped across the road, startling me. It must have had a wingspan of nearly four feet. But it flew by so quickly I couldn’t tell what kind of bird it was. I sprinted to the other side of the street, glancing into the trees where it’d disappeared. But it was long gone and I couldn’t spot it. Three days later, the mystery still lingers.
The truth shall set you free, Christ told his disciples. This is all fine and dandy, but it really begs the question:
“What is truth?” Pilate asked.
And Jesus didn’t say anything.
I often wish that life had a rewind button for grand moments, the first starry night my infant eyes beheld, the feeling of her hand taking mine, the unknowing last words spoken to a friend. I wish there was a way to revisit these events, moments when truth slipped through my fingers and I didn’t know to grasp it until later.
But I also long for the seemingly trite moments, like the bird soaring over the road in front of me: moments when I would’ve just liked to see truth before it disappeared into the trees.
I often find it difficult to trust a God who held this mysterious truth in one hand and yet emphasized the necessity to receive it with the other. Like a carrot dangling from a stick in front of a horse, truth always seems just out of reach. Still it is close enough to smell, sometimes to the point of insanity leading me to wonder if I am a horse, not merely a big, dumb ass.
But then my eyes wander to my guitar sitting in the corner. And the reality sinks in: something is only what I want until I have it. Oh, the wanderlust of my impatient desires! I have scarcely begun descending one mountain of faith before wondering if the grass will be greener over the next summit, or recalling how plentiful were slopes I’d just left.
My suspicion is that I am not alone in this. And this theory is confirmed by a world consumed with waving banners of momentary satisfaction, by never-ending highways lined with billboards that cut through the hearts of others like me.
So it comes as no surprise that truth is to be found in the desire; how else could I know it? It cannot be handed over to me like a guitar to a distracted man. Nothing would come of it. Had I seen the bird long enough to recognize it, I’m sure I would have forgotten its existence within a matter of minutes. Possession annihilates remarkability.
So truth must remain, at least partially, a mystery, especially to those who wish for it most. It is, the poet Rainier Rilke once proclaimed, like locked doors that we are not yet ready to open. We could not yet have it.
But although the door is locked we hold the key as one holds sand between his fingers. For the key is desire and within the longing the answer lies like exquisite wine in the barrels of our existence. For the truth to be something we can behold it must first age. Otherwise it is just some cheap moonshine on which we become drunk, singing and dancing around our own Babeling towers.
And so truth remains slightly out of my grasp, alluding me as a bird in the wind. The desire moves me forward, one step at a time. And I learn to love the scent of truth almost as much as its fulfillment. The kingdom of God is already among us, after all.
In the meantime, my guitar sits in the corner and I move on to other things. After all, it’s only what I want until I have it.
Luckily for the neighbors.