Spiritual Lessons From a Round of Disc Golf

Knowing the right things to do doesn’t mean we’ll do it.

Greg A. King
Spiritual Lessons From a Round of Disc Golf

A recent humorous and humbling experience highlighted for me the value and relevance of several texts from Scripture. My wife, Mary, and I were taking a brief getaway from our regular responsibilities for some relaxation and recreation. The Christian retreat center where we were spending a night, the Whitestone Inn, has a disc golf course on its picturesque grounds. Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf, is a sport in which participants throw a plastic disc from a tee pad in the direction of a metal basket on a pole located some distance away. The purpose is to get the disc into the metal basket in as few throws as possible. Sometimes the level of difficulty on a particular hole is increased by having obstacles such as trees and bodies of water located between the tee pad and the metal basket, making it more challenging to reach the basket with the disc. As is the case with real golf, the lower the score, the better.

The weather was beautiful on this particular day at the retreat center, so my wife and I decided to play a round of disc golf. Neither of us is very skilled at this sport, not having done it much previously, but we thought it would be a good way to get outside and have some fun engaging in a relaxing recreational activity. So, we went to the retreat center office and obtained the discs that are available for their guests to borrow.

Hole 6

Other than both of us having some rather poor throws of the discs, which went far from their intended paths, and neither of us having a par score on any hole (par is the average score a good player will achieve on a specific hole), the round of disc golf was both enjoyable and uneventful. At least it was uneventful until we got to the sixth hole. Hole 6, which measures 240 feet from tee pad to target basket, features an ample-sized pond between the tee pad and the target basket. I knew that neither of us was capable of throwing the disc over the pond, and not wanting to risk losing a borrowed disc, I instructed my wife to take the safest route and stay well away from the water. “Make sure you throw it off to the side, and take the longer but safer route,” I intoned.

My wife dutifully followed my counsel, and her disc landed safely in the grass, well away from the pond. At that point it was my turn to throw my disc, and I stepped forward, took careful aim, intending to avoid the pond, gave a mighty toss to my disc—and did exactly what I had clearly told my wife not to do. Incredibly (at least to me), my throw, which started out in the right direction, drifted well off its intended course and landed right in the pond! I stared in disbelief. How could I have done something so dumb? Even though I found a long bamboo pole, the borrowed disc was well away from the edge of the pond, so far out that I was unable to pull it back to shore. What a fix!

Learning Moments

As I struggled with how to retrieve the errant disc and later contemplated my predicament, my mind reflected on three Bible verses that seemed relevant to my situation. First, Romans 7:15 declares, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”* If it’s true that a carefully aimed throw of a flat, round disc can veer off course, how much more is it the case that in a complex, sometimes confusing world, our lives frequently go astray. Even though we have noble intentions and lofty goals, we often fall short of meeting them. In our human nature we are weak, fallible, and prone to failure—unless our connection with divine agencies and resources remains constant and unwavering. Of course, we can be thankful for God’s grace when we fall short of following His will.

A second pertinent verse is 1 Corinthians 10:12, which warns, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” There I was, warning my wife to play it safe and stay away from the pond, and lo and behold, I threw my own disc into it. That was a salutary lesson for me. If it can happen on the disc golf course, it is even more likely to happen in the hurly-burly of life. If I think that I have nothing to worry about and am in a position of strength, that I am spiritually impregnable, I need to watch out—to beware. In the very areas of life in which I caution others, I am myself liable to fall. This lesson serves to remind us to be humble, stay close to Jesus, and rely on His strength.

A third verse germane to my situation is Galatians 6:1. It states, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” I am glad to report that my wife, who had followed my admonition to steer clear of the pond with her disc, said very little when her husband violated his own instruction. In keeping with Paul’s counsel, she was gentle and gracious. There were no smug remarks, such as, “I can’t believe you did this!” In fact, she even wisely suggested for me to allow some time to pass in the hope that a breeze would blow the floating disc to the shore of the pond and save me from wading in to retrieve it—which is just what happened!

Thus ended my disc golf adventure. Though my score was very poor, I had a richer understanding of three important Bible verses and how they intersect with everyday life.

* All Scripture quotations have been taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Greg A. King