Friday, June 6, 2014

Bowling Alley Lessons in Humility

The only sporting trophy I ever won was in bowling.  Yes, bowling.  It’s not, perhaps, what you might think.
Lady ministers bowling:  Erin, me, Melissa & Deb with
her Holy-Spirit Pentecost bowling shirt on.
 I am not a good bowler.  In fact, I may be the worst bowler you have ever or are every likely to meet.

Here’s what happened:

My then-husband was in a bowling league and I went with him just to hang out on Friday nights.  Turned out one of the teams was short a player and somehow I ended up (virtually never having bowled) on their team.

They were pretty good.  I was not.  That was okay, they assured me.  My handicap would offset my lack of skill.  What I later figured out is that my handicap was only worthwhile if I actually improved, which I did not.  Truth is I got worse, which seemed an impossibility.

But it was fun and my team mates were good sports.

At the end of the season came the League banquet, which is where I won my only ever sporting trophies: one as a team member – the League gave us all golf trophies, believing we had misunderstood the point of bowling and its scoring (think about it – it’s pretty funny).

And I personally received the award for “Miss Congeniality” for being a good sport.  What I pointed out to my fellow bowlers at the time I still believe to be true: it wasn’t so much that I was a good sport (although I was) but that whenever anyone in the League was feeling bad about their own performance, they would simply come stand with me for a few minutes and ask me how I was doing.  No matter how bad their night was, mine was worse and they felt better for it.  Which was fine with me.

Bowling remains my favorite sport because the folks I’ve bowled with have always been patient and kind and their laughter when I threw the ball backwards behind me was tinged with gentleness and good humor.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that my bowling experience was teaching me about humility and its true nature.

hu·mil·i·ty  - noun:  a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness.  Google

Contrary to what the dictionarists would hold, humility, at least in its godly sense, is not about abasement or lowliness in a negative sense.  Rather, godly humility is simply about understanding my right relationship to God and to the rest of the world.

When it comes to bowling, the truth is that I will never be very good.  And that’s perfectly okay.  I can still have fun and be a part of the group.  I can still be welcomed even as the weakest member of the team.  I can still have a place, even if it’s mostly as a place filler.

So here are my own 8 lessons in godly humility learned in a bowling alley in Parkersburg, West Virginia many years ago:

1. Humility is cheerful.

2. Humility is not bothered by its own lack.

3. Humility rejoices in the well-doing and well-being of others.

4. Humility offers itself for comparison and does not suffer for it.

5. Humility is not jealous – what would be the point of that?

6. Humility is fine with being the worst on the team, being simply grateful to be a part of the team.

7. Humility displays its golf trophies proudly.

8. Humility shares the joke, even when it’s on her.

Somehow I had been led to believe that humility is a hang-dog kind of thing.  Oh, how wrong was I.  For humility is simply holding value in the smallest of things and rejoicing in the great gift of being allowed to show up.

That’s what I think today, anyhow.  And you know, I could be wrong about that.  But that would be okay too.

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