I Will Never Forget Frame 7 at the Bowling Alley
This column originally appeared in a local magazine in the region where I pastor. At times, I’ll post the column on this blog.
Family night began without incident. My 18-month old and almost four year-old were smiling and laughing. We splurged on ice cream at Chick-fil-a. It was a good evening with the family.
We decided to go bowling. It was a first for our family. You would think that eight-pound balls and small children would not be a good mix. But the hilarity of watching my daughters push them down the lane was good for the soul.
We set up the bumpers to prevent gutter balls. My wife seemed to benefit the most from this arrangement. Bank shots score points in basketball, not bowling. But she managed to use the bumper to bank shot her way to a few strikes and spares. Going into the seventh frame, she led by two pins. Even my passive-aggressive tactics of making odd noises as she released the ball had not prevented her from taking the lead.
My wife has never beaten me in any sport (board games do not count). She is a great athlete, but my hyper-competitive-egotistical-neuroticism kicks in when I’m losing to her and reminds me of my superior skills. There was no way her lead was going to hold. My victory was predestined.
The seventh frame included a surprise—not the good kind. Right as I was about to begin sealing my victory, Mount Vesuvius erupted. Just like in AD 79, molten rock and pulverized pumice went everywhere. Hydrothermal pyroclastic flows consumed everything in sight. My 18-month old decided to spew her own body weight, coating my wife in a thin film that smelled like something from the deep pit of hell. As I watched in what seemed slow motion, I simply thought, she’s tiny…where are these gallons coming from? I also wondered what the guy at the desk thought when I handed back the bowling shoes and said, “You might want to spray these twice.”
They didn’t teach me how to clean up lane 23 in parenting class. I never learned in seminary how to be a gospel witness while on my hands and knees with a bottle of cleaner and bowling alley rags. My wife bore the brunt of the eruption, which was her penance for cheating at bowling with bank shots. The real problem was trying to figure out who won. Actually, my almost four year-old was the winner. She was the only one in our family that didn’t get a visit from the nasty pest we know as the stomach bug.
It was Friday night, not Saturday. Every pastor fears Saturday night. Snow storms are great, just not on Saturday night. Emergencies come with the job, just—please Lord—not on Saturday night. I don’t mind staying up and caring for a sick kid, just not on Saturday night. But then again, Sunday worship isn’t for me nor about me. If God wants to throw a curve ball on Saturday night, it’s His prerogative to do so. But it was Friday night, so no biggie.
God’s grace shows up in the oddest of ways. Throughout the ordeal of caring for a sick child, I was reminded of how God works—how He really works. We’re His children. And we’re all sick. So sick, in fact, that we can’t care for ourselves. We’re sick children. He’s the healing parent.
My wife reflected God’s image that night at the bowling alley. Not in her cheating bank shots—God does not approve of cheaters. But she did give me a reminder of the character of God as she held our 18-month old. My wife did not drop her. My wife did not scream at her. In fact, my wife calmly wiped away the muck and started trying to soothe her.
That’s God. Jesus got messy to cleanse us. Jesus got sick to heal us. Apart from the grace of God, we’re just a bunch of sick kids in lane 23 during frame 7 of a family bowling game. By the way, my wife wears size 7 shoe in case you wanted to know. But I’m sure they sprayed them twice.