Bowling Ball Faith

August 30, 2010 | 17 comments

I once chaperoned the kindergarten field trip to the bowling alley.

It was one of the scariest events I’ve ever attended.

Picture this: 62 sock-footed children on slippery lanes, gripping cannon balls — er, I mean bowling balls — above unprotected toes and heads. A few of them ran so far down the bowling lanes with their weapons, that I thought we might just discover children coming back by way of the ball-return.

One child (mine) stood poised, squinting at the ten pins with great intensity. Then, with all the precision of a bat in daylight, she let go of her ball on the back-swing, sending it into a crowd of miniature onlookers.

With deft accuracy, I caught the ball midair. Oof.

Thankfully, the bowling-alley operators had installed rubber bumpers on both sides of each lane, to guard the gutters. That was our one saving grace.

I’ve made use of bumpers like that on my own slippery path.

“But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
— Matthew 7:14

I could be prone to question my salvation, if I read those verses all alone, out of context while ignoring the story of exile and redemption that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation.

For the record: I have found the narrow path. But my walk of faith looks more like a zig-zagging stumble than a neat traipse down the center.

I know how I am. And I know WHO I am.

I am both saint and sinner — on the path, but prone to slide off the edges with the smallest push of pride, envy or temptation.

I belong to Jesus, but I’m also a carrier of a fatal disease: a fallen human nature.

Today, I am wearing the T-shirt given to me by a friend. It reads: “I am the wretch the song refers to.”

I could look at my life one of two ways. I’m either:

A) A wretch who is getting more sinful.

Or:

B) A wretch who is becoming ever more aware of her own depravity.

I pray it’s B. I pray I’m not getting worse, just more aware.

I am, indeed, a wretch. And I don’t say that as a way to kick myself or wallow in some kind of religious self-pity.

I confess who I am, and acknowledge my need for daily heart surgery. And by His grace, I receive it.

How often in my life have I thought that I could turn a corner and somehow have “arrived” in my faith? Too many to count. But this faith we share is not a once-and-done proposition.We are growing in Christ, and shrinking in self.

And yet, I see the sin that marks my daily path. I’m aware of the abject failure I would be, if I had to somehow earn my place on this narrow walk. And when I turn my eyes to look back and see the footprints I’ve left behind me, I see a crooked footpath reminiscent of a kindergartner-aimed bowling ball.

It cost God plenty to keep me on this path. I didn’t get here by my own accord. If my flesh had its way, I’d be a gutter ball.

Instead, I’m drawn to my knees again by the stunning reminder that Jesus Christ gave up Heaven to pay my debt and buy me a place in Heaven.

I don’t know what’s around the bend, or how far off-center I’ll stray before I get there. I don’t know how rocky the road is up ahead.

I only know this: I cannot count on my own righteousness to take the next step.

But I am going to do my level-best to stay in the center. Not because it earns me a place in the Father’s House. But because it honors the One who bought me my spot.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving me, even me. I’m coming Home, and I don’t know if I’ll get there in two months or fifty-two years. But I’m thankful to my core that the path is paved with grace. Because if it wasn’t, my knees would be a lot more skinned up than they already are.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

Would you share your thoughts here in community? Over on the Getting Down With Jesus Facebook page, we’ve been discussing what it means to stay on the path.

We welcome your insights here, in the comment box, or over on Facebook.

Photos: From recent trip to Renaissance Festival in Minnesota.

by | August 30, 2010 | 17 comments

17 Comments

  1. thesavingmomparents

    I love the bumper analogy. What a great way to look at things. I think it's something I can share with my kiddos that they will understand. ~Jessica

    Reply
  2. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Hi Jessica! Nice to see you here again. I appreciate your thoughts.

    By the way: I need kid-friendly analogies for my girls AND for myself. The best way for me to make sense of things, at times, is to boil it down to a kindergarten level. Maybe it's that whole thing about "Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten." 🙂

    Reply
  3. Amy

    A great post! I'm going to bookmark it in my delicious account…

    I am a wretch too….the 'B' kind as well. I think the further we get down our path of faith the more we realize this fact of trying to grow in holiness but still being wretched. Kinda like the more you know, the more you realize you still need to learn.

    BTW, why didn't the kids have bowling shoes on?? Did they not have enough sizes for them all and so went the route of nothing instead of some with and some without? GOodness, I couldn't imagine a bowling ball to a kindergartner's little toesie!

    Reply
  4. Megan Willome

    I want one of those T-shirts!

    Reply
  5. Traci Michele

    Amen! Please do send me that running info 🙂

    curly2880 at yahoo dot com

    Love,
    Traci

    THANKS FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT!

    Reply
  6. Sara

    John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was famous for saying that as Christians, we are constantly moving forward toward perfection.

    On a side note, a friend gave my boys a book series called "I Can Read God's Word" by Phil A. Smouse. He follows the format of phonics books for kids, but uses biblical stories. They're very cool.

    Reply
  7. Stephani

    I think until we realize that we are a indeed a wretch, we are not on the path at all. Can we grasp and fully receive how marvelous his love, grace, and mercy are if we don't understand how badly we are in need of it? Being wretched and realizing it, is the first step down the path God has called us to.

    Reply
  8. Candy

    I felt like a giggling schoolgirl in church (really a stretch), giggling laughing at the bowling incident as I dove in to your lovely words. We wretches need to stick together. Something about misery loves company or we all need each other. Or maybe both! And then we get His grace. Awesome.

    Reply
  9. Karen

    "If my flesh had its way, I'd be a gutter ball."…amen…I've rolled back and forth in the channel many a time…thank God for His mercy and grace!

    Reply
  10. Lyla Lindquist

    That small gate and narrow path?

    Always figure it has a lot to do with what we can take along with us. The gate is wide enough for me and Jesus. That's it. None of my stuff, my accomplishments, my self-effort, none of my nothin'. And I figure He makes the path inside that gate narrow to keep me from finding a way to pick it all back up again.

    Great reminder of that, wretched one.

    Reply
  11. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Amy — You crack me up. Thanks for the encouragement, and the reminder that the awareness of our wretchedness is not really a bad thing. Stephani mentioned that, too. Thanks for that.

    And yeah, no bowling shoes. There weren't enough to go around, as I recall.

    Hey Megan, here's a link to Christianbook.com. They sell that T-shirt:

    http://www.christianbook.com/am-the-wretch-shirt-gray-large/pd/294XL

    Sara — Wesley. Good man. I grew up Methodist. 🙂 Also, your book suggestion sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Candy — I'd feel in mighty fine company with a wretch like you. Do you suppose we could invite our mutual friend Katdish?

    Karen — I'm actually probably prone to be WORSE than a gutter ball. I might be one of those balls that sailed backward through the air! Ah … but God. But God! He offers His grace and catches us midair.

    Lyla, Well said, my friend. Well said. You always manage to get to the core of Truth — even in a comment box. I appreciate you so.

    Reply
  13. Stacey

    Great post! Amen!!!

    I felt like I was reading about myself.

    Reply
  14. Sandra Heska King

    I lost it when I read you caught the ball midair. Hysterical!

    Bumpers and gutter balls. What a great analogy!

    Reply
  15. Graceful

    I love this metaphor, Jennifer. And I cannot believe you CAUGHT a bowling ball! It's funny, I just took my boys bowling this past weekend, and I was so grateful for those bumpers! And Rowan terrified us all — I've never seen a person throw a bowling ball like he's tossing a softball. I thought we were going to be asked to leave!

    Reply
  16. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    i just love how you always find God in everything! you are such an inspiration and i just praise God for your dedication and commitment to Him!

    love to you Jennifer,

    Reply
  17. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    A couple of you have made a comment here about catching that bowling ball midair.

    Indeed, Divine Intervention was involved! I am one of the biggest klutzes you'll ever meet, and aside from my recent running adventures, I don't have an athletic bone in my body. 🙂

    Graceful, that visual of your son bowling softball-style has me laughing out loud.

    Reply

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