It was such a pleasant evening. Double date with new friends. Not too hot out. Clear skies. Great food and conversation. A nice walk in the park. Then, putt-putt. You know, miniature golf.
Okay, now I have to tell you – mini golf isn’t my favorite. It’s a simple, yet frustratingly difficult game. I like that it’s something to play outside, but not too strenuous – meaning I shouldn’t have to sweat. I like the cute little course and the fact they are usually set up like a garden. The course we played on the other night was built into a hillside with many levels and mature trees. Very lovely setting.
See, the thing is, for some reason I have a difficult time acting like a mature adult while playing mini golf. Something so simple shouldn’t be so hard, right? Tap the little ball into the little hole. However, throw in a curve, water trap, ditch, and my personal least-favorite – the slope. Ahhh, the slope. Doesn’t matter if it goes up or down, navigating the slope tends to bring out the absolute worst in me.
I decided ahead of time I would choose to have a virtuous attitude while playing mini golf with our new friends. I wasn’t going to let a few slopes get the best of me and ruin an already excellent evening.
About midway through the course I saw it. Between my golf ball and the hole was not only one slope, but two. The hole was situated on a plateau with a slope going up and another going down the other side.
I commenced the inner lecture. Alright, Calista, I don’t care how many times you have to tap your little yellow ball to make it land on the plateau before you can get it in the hole, you will by no means have a temper tantrum! It’s just a game!
My turn. Tap. The ball made it part way up and rolled back. No problem, I got this. Tap. Same. Take a deep breath. Tap. Up the slope … and down the other slope. The good-natured teasing started and my blood began to boil. Tap. Up and down it went again.
At that point, I could feel my jaw tighten, my brow crinkled into a frown, and my temples were pulsating. Slowly drawing in my breath I glanced at my husband, Brian, who was watching me with a funny smirk on his face because he knew I was about to blow. And our new friend? He was laughing out loud and taunting me – all in fun, of course, but taunting all the same. I do believe they all enjoyed my rage.
A couple more tries with the same result made me feel like I could swear. Having recently heard a sermon on not doing that I grabbed my little yellow golf ball and stuffed it by hand into the hole. Done!
Some days it seems all our best efforts are a series of misplaced attempts resulting in the same actions being repeated over and over again. Insanity!
We might be tempted to pray, “And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” (Psalm 90:17 NLT) without first asking for His direction to find out if we are doing what He wants us to do.
We aren’t promised success if we move out ahead of God’s plan for our lives. We may find ourselves going up one slope and down another, always missing the mark. Discouragement sets in as we wonder why our big plans have gone wrong and why God isn’t helping us. All our work seems to be for nothing.
Friends, God isn’t after our best human efforts. In fact, Jesus said that human effort accomplishes nothing (John 6:63). It’s not about striving and trying and working, but it’s about rest and trust and peace.
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:3 NLT
After my unfortunate putt-putt rage incident, we finished the evening with ice cream in the mini golf shop. It was then I noticed a sign on the wall that said, “Five stroke limit on holes.”
If I had paid attention to the sign in the first place I could have saved myself the stress of trying to finish something I didn’t need to finish.
So, what about those slopes of life? Perhaps we can take them in stride. Perhaps there needs to be reevaluation of our plan in case there’s a chance we might have missed an important detail. Or maybe it’s just time to stop trying for a while and wait for further direction to make sure our efforts are in line with God’s direction.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8 NLT
How do you respond to the slopes of life? Is it easy or not so easy for you to step back and reevaluate your plan? What is God saying to you today?