Blog # 342 Life a Game of Bowling
I think I may have used this same text in a previous blog or a Christmas letter a couple of years ago but I am not sure. I came upon it this morning when I was culling out some notes in a file cabinet and found it a source of blessing. Even if you may remember it from before you may find it a source of blessing and inspiration again as I have done. I hope so.
One morning out of the blue it occurred to me as I was driving by a local bowling alley to view the Christian life and experience like a bowling game. Jesus used to do something like this using wheat fields fishing nets seeds being sown in a field and other experiences that were familiar to those to whom He was speaking. His parables are rich in being able to be applied for us today even in our modern world of high tech skills and immense new knowledge of what God has created for us in what we call 'our world'. A bowling game became my wheat field and fishing net. Now when I pass a bowling alley it tells me "You are here!" I hope it will be an ongoing invitation for you to grow in holiness and faithfully persevere until the end of your 'game'.
Here is the way the parable goes. The Kingdom of Heaven, the Christian life and experience, where God is present by faith, sought by hope, and discovered by love, wherever and whenever all or any of this may be, is like a bowling game.
First we have a bowling alley. It is an item intelligently designed and structured precisely for the game of bowling. There is an open space or gutter at both sides of the alley. Next we have ten pins set in a particular order to form a triangle at the far end of the alley. Then we have a large ball with holes drilled into it to fit your particular fingers to permit you to hold the ball and roll it comfortably and accurately. The object of the game is to knock down the pins. A perfect game is indicated by a perfect score of 300.
Often when Jesus finished giving one of His parables His disciples or someone in the crowd around Him asked Him to clarify the meaning of the parable for them. They knew He was not talking about wheat or talents or fish even though He was talking about wheat and talents and fish. There was more to what He was saying than the sounds of it. The words were intended to be enriched and applied to individual unique everyday experiences. So it is with the parable of the bowling game. And so...
The alley can be taken at one time as creation itself, the whole of it, or at other times, on a smaller scale, our individual personal unique lives. Both are intelligently designed and structured for a specific purpose. All of creation, from the largest star to you and me was intelligently designed and structured by our single Creator-God. Therefore the meaning and purpose of all that exists is to be found in God. And since GOD IS LOVE, ( 1 Jn. 4: 8, 16) the meaning of the whole of creation can be found in love. LOVE is the object of the GAME OF LIFE, just as knocking down the pins is the object of the game of bowling.
Created as we are, uniquely and personally in the image of God, we are capable of understanding and realizing this in a unique personal way. Jesus told us this when someone asked Him what is the first of the Commandments. It is to love God with your whole heart and mind and strength , totally.
What could stop or hinder us from loving God with our whole heart mind and strength? A similar question can be asked of bowling What can stop us from a perfect game? The ten pins. the very same realities that in response to our skill create our victory, in response to a lesser skill create our failure!
A champion bowler knows each of the pins by name from one to ten. And if, for example, there is a seven and a three pin left on the alley in a particular frame of the game he or she has learned by observation and talking to other champion bowlers who have faced the same situation, by practice, and even through error perhaps that if he or she perseveres in his or her desire, we can learn how the critical seven and ten pins can be knocked down together with a single roll of the ball. If all the pins are knocked down every time the ball is thrown , a perfect game of bowling can be achieved.
In this, bowling is different from other games we play such as football baseball and soccer. There is no such thing as a perfect game of football. . YOUR perfect game, yes, but not a perfect game of football. You can loose a game of football with a score of 46 and win a football game with a score of 7. There is no absolute standard for determining a perfect game of football. In bowling that is not the case. Knock down all the pins, the game is over and you have a perfect game of bowling. And only then.
The same question that came with bowling comes with the 'game' of life: What can stop or hinder from achieving a 'score' of perfect love in our 'game' of life? As with the ten pins in a bowling game, we can name the obstacles in our personal lives that prevent or diminish our ability to experience perfect love. Our sins, moral weaknesses, procrastination, excuses, temptation, and lack of awareness are among the 'pins' that can be identified as standing in the way of achieving a perfect score (Rom.8: 35, 39.
Recognizing perfect love as the perfect score in the 'game' of life, we ask the question: Is there a perfect love that can be achieved? Is it with love as it is with football and baseball where you can have your perfect game, the best you can do, but not the perfect game?
If the answer to that question were Yes, life would still be a wonderful gift and worth living. But the answer is No. Life is different from football and baseball where you do your best. Life is like bowling where you reach for an absolute value named perfect love. The fundamental question becomes: What is the meaning of perfect love? "...with your whole heart, and mind, and with all your strength."
We keep on living day by day with this wonderful dream and desire of our Creator within us and at the same time aware of falling short. Just think for a moment of the case of Jesus and Mary His mother. We believe both of them were totally without sin for their entire lives. Yet Scripture indicates for us that Jesus was tempted, and if that were the case we can imagine Mary was tempted too. and like Jesus without sin by choices on her part. Applying once more the parable of the bowling game, we see incidences in their lives as in ours that might tempt us to sin that had to be cast out by choices in order for us to love more perfectly. That they did. That we keep trying to do.
The perfect game of bowling is certified by the last pin to go down. In the 'game' of life the last pin to go down is death. And this is true for everyone. It was true for Mary and Jesus. Death it is that could tempt us to think God is unfair, cruel, uncaring, waiting in Heaven to judge us. Seen that way it is a difficult pin to knock down, a temptation to let it overshadow all the good things that have made up our lives, including the forgiveness of our sin rather than and opportunity of transforming it into our absolutely greatest act of love. The last pin to go down is the greatest threat to a perfect game. It is also the pin that declares the winner. Jesus named that pin the greatest love. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life..." To love means to give and the more we love the more we give. The only way to love perfectly is to give it all. This is possible only in death. Until the very instant of death there is more to give, even if it is only that very instant.
We believe that in the Church, the Body of Christ, we are joined to Jesus through faith and Baptism as a branch on a vine, sharing the same life Jesus brought from Heaven and shares with us in a limited human way. ( cf Jn 15: 4,5; 17: 21,23,26), As branches are joined to a vine a vine is joined to the branches. In the bowling game of Christian life we are bowlers and Jesus is the ball! Understand that and you understand the deepest meaning and value of the event of that first Christmas! EMMANUEL-God Among Us!
May your love be deep and joyful and faithful to the end! Happy Christmas every day of your life!