Practice Makes Perfect
Jesus said: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.” ~Luke 6:46-48
A couple of weeks ago Kelly Horn, our Director of Children’s Ministry, asked me if I wanted to play a round of golf. With all three kids finally in school on Friday I thought it would be a fun way to spend my day off. What you need to know is that I used to be a pretty good golfer. In college and seminary, when free time was a little easier to come by, I would play golf anywhere from 2-6 times a month. Because I played so much I was able to dial in my game where I shot in the mid-80's.
Since I graduated seminary, the time I have spent on the golf course seems to get less and less with each passing year. When I moved from California I was down to playing golf just 3-4 times a year. One was in our presbytery’s tournament, another was in our church’s tournament, and the third was courtesy of the free pass I won when I was part of the winning team at the presbytery tournament. Since moving to the golf capital of the world two years ago, however, I have yet to play golf.
As Kelly and I headed out to the course I warned Kelly of my lack of golf time over the past three years, and that I had never actually used the clubs I was getting ready to use that day. The set I was about to use was purchased from Pinnacle's rummage sale as an upgrade to the set I got when I was 19 years old.
As I set out on the first hole, I wasn’t expecting much. My first ball went out of bounds, followed by a worm burner that went about 75 yards. Eight strokes later my ball found its way to the hole. The next couple of holes where pretty much same with one bad shot after another. By the fifth hole I started to hit my driver a little straighter, not out of bounds, and started to hit some clean approach shots. I started feeling good about my golf game. Then comes the 14th hole. I teed up my first shot and proceeded to slice it. I sliced it so far we were expecting to find it on the next fairway, which was two sets of houses and a street over. So I teed up again and proceed to hook it into a yard 100 feet from the tee.
When Trey, my son, got home from school that day, he asked me how I played and I said pretty good, but in reality, I didn’t. However, I convinced myself that I shot quite well for not playing in two years, using a "new" set of used clubs. But when your score is higher than the Arizona temperature in early August, that is not a good round of golf.
The interesting thing is that before I took my first tee shot, I thought, “If I could shoot in the low 90’s I would be happy.” I mean, I hit a few puts on the practice green and I thought that would be enough. Anyone who plays golf knows it is an unreal expectation, after not playing in over two years, to just hit a few putts, not even hit the driving range, and expect to play well.
If I ever want to get back to where I was in college I have to practice. I have to go to the driving range and get used to my clubs and find a comfortable swing. I have to head to the putting green and learn how to reread the breaks in the green; maybe even find someone who knows more about the game than I do to teach me. Even pro golfers don’t just go out and play. They practice hours more than they compete and have coaches to help make them better. We have to practice and learn before we play if we want to get better. It is common sense.
However, when it comes to our faith we expect to be good without putting in the effort. We expect our kids to know who God is by going to church two hours a month. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 7 hours a night that means you are awake 119 hours a week. That is 119 hours a week of living as Christ has called us to live. Kids who play sports practice for 2-3 hours a week when they are young, and 15+ hours as they get older to prepare for one game, maybe two games, a week. If we are willing to do that for sports, why are we not willing to do it for our faith?
Our faith is the most important thing in our lives, but often times we don’t treat it that way. We want to just get out of the car and be ready to go. We expect children to grow up knowing who Christ is, but don’t want to spend the time or energy it takes to build faith in a child; we just want them to know. We find teens unengaged and walking away from the church, but can’t seem to find the time to make a difference in their lives. Sometimes we find our lives or our marriages struggling spiritually and we wonder why. If we are being honest with ourselves, how can we expect to grow spiritually if we are only willing to give God one hour a week.
Jesus tells us that, “[any]one who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”
If we want to have strong faith, if we want our children and youth to have strong faith, we have to be willing to come to God more than just an hour a week so that our foundation will be strong.