The girls’ school had a family fellowship last night at a local bowling alley. It was fun for us in a “we really don’t know many of these families but the six of us take up a whole lane anyway so we’re just having fun as our own family tonight” kind of way.
One thing you may not know about me is that I grew up going to the bowling alley with my parents on Friday nights. My mom and dad were in a league and they would get my sister and me a lane to bowl in while they were doing their thing. These were the days before bumpers and I became a pretty decent bowler for an elementary kid. And I can keep score on paper.
Anyway, my point: About half-way through our first game I looked at all the other lanes (the alley had 24 total). Every single lane had bumpers up. Every single lane, that is, except ours. It wasn’t necessarily intentional at first – we just always encourage the girls to not use them when we do go bowling (and we don’t go that much) because you don’t learn to bowl when you have bumpers, you know what I’m saying? Sure, with the bumpers nobody gets a gutter ball, but when the ball bounces off a bumper and then knocks all the pins down, I have news for you: you still don’t know how to bowl a strike.
It was also about half-way through that first game that a couple of our girls also noticed we were the only ones not utilizing the bumpers and they requested that we do so. We told them we would ask for them to be put up for the second game. Right before the second game we put in our request and heard it go out over the speaker, but the bumpers were never raised, so we kept bowling without them. There was a bit of dismay at first on the part of the girls who had requested them, but then something happened – they began rolling their balls a little straighter and knocking some pins down on their own. And we were able to say, “See? You didn’t need the bumpers! Doesn’t it feel better to knock the pins down without the bumper?”
And it did…because you have to know what it feels like to get a gutter ball to really understand how awesome it is to knock down a strike all on your own.
Our girls are going to hit some gutters in their lives and when it happens, we will be there to comfort and encourage and give pointers on how not to do that again. But you know what else? They are going to learn to navigate life a little straighter because of it. And when the strikes come, we are going to celebrate with them knowing they arrived there because of perseverance, skill, and the hand of God, not because of a bumper.
Gutter balls are no fun. But sometimes that’s what it takes to learn what is needed. As much as I’d love to pave all of our lives with rubber bumpers, I’m finding I’m okay with the gutters so we can eventually get what they produce.