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Bumper Bowling and the Christian Walk

Bowling lane with the bumpers up and a clearly marked foul line to see the analogy between bumper bowling and our Christian walk.
Picture taken at Alley Cats. There were screens above, so lanes reflected the lights there.

If you have ever gone bowling with a child, chances are, you know about bumper bowling. It’s simply an adaptation to the lane for young children who are first learning to bowl. With the touch of a button, bumpers come out to cover the gutters so that bowling balls will stay on the lane. Nobody likes a gutter ball, and it’s a lot more fun for everybody when pins are hit. The other night in my prayer closet, a thought occurred to me about how the Christian walk is a lot like bumper bowling. What started as a random thought turned out to be a full-fledged analogy after seeking God in prayer. 

The Straight and Narrow

Matthew 7:14 says that it is the narrow way that leads to life (KJV). That is the exact path a bowling ball needs to travel to hit all ten of the pins. A little to the left or right, and you might only get a few or end up with a split. But for little ones just learning the game, aim can be lacking. With bumpers, balls that might be skewed too far to one side or the other are gently bumped back toward the center for a better chance at hitting something. Proverbs 3:6 tells us that when we trust in the Lord, He will make our paths straight (NIV). 

Bumpers Are Boundaries

So what are the boundaries that God has set up to keep His children moving safely down the narrow path? First and foremost is the Holy Spirit. He guides us into all truth and lets us know when our thoughts or actions are not pleasing to Him. God chastens those He loves. Listening to His correction and submitting to His will for our lives is like a gentle bump back to where we need to be on His lane. 

Second, like 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, we must “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” This is actually where the thought for this analogy came from. I felt like I was continually catching myself out of bounds with my thoughts and having to reign them back in. At times, we can have the tendency to “overcorrect.” Having trouble with feeling worthless? Be careful, or you will overcorrect to pride. We go from one bumper to the other, ever trying to hit that perfect sweet spot in the center.

Third, we must be always trying to conform ourselves to what we see in the Bible. We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. When we catch ourselves acting in a way that is contrary to what the scripture says, we need to stop what we are doing and repent. That just means we need to turn around and go the other way. In 1 John 5:17, we learn that “all unrighteousness is sin.” We must try to behave the way the Bible commands. We must stay away from the behaviors that grieve the Lord.

The Weight of the Ball

One ingredient in the bowling experience that can make a big difference is the weight of the ball. Young kids can’t lift very many pounds, so maybe a six or eight pound ball is all they can handle. Older kids and strong men can lift balls as heavy as 12 to 16 pounds. Lighter balls are easier to swing and release, but often the heavier balls can pack a bigger punch to the pins.

As believers, we are not all given the same advantages and disadvantages on our Christian walk. Some of us live easier lives and may only hit a few pins. Some have lived through terrible calamities and may end up with a perfect strike. God uses each of us for His purposes, but often those who have come from desperate situations can make a big impact for others going through the same trials. And people called to lives of hardship can often focus more on the Lord than those who live lives of ease.

Where Do the Balls Go?

Unless you make a wild swing, all the balls on the lane end up in the same place. They go back to the docking station next to the bowlers to be used on their next turns. The Bible is clear that believers can lose their salvation if they choose to leave the narrow path. Otherwise, all genuine, Holy Spirit-filled Christians will end up with Jesus no matter how many pins are hit in the process.

What Are The Pins?

The pins are rewards in heaven. Matthew 16:27 says, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Now, we are not working for our salvation at all. All balls on the lane end up in the docking station with Jesus. But, everyone’s aim and success with the bumpers will not be the same. Some will knock down many pins, making a big difference for the kingdom of God and living a life characterized by sacrifice that will translate into big rewards in heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 3:14, we learn that “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” Some, on the other hand, even with the bumpers will still hit the gutter. In 1 Corinthians 3:15, we hear that  “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

The Foul Line

Last but not least, the foul line is important in the game. Bowlers must stay behind the line when delivering their swing to keep the game safe and fair. Lanes are polished so that they are very slippery, so people can fall and get hurt. Also, the line acts as a neutral starting point so that no one player has an advantage. If someone does end up over the foul line, any points scored are forfeited. Satan is our adversary in this life. He is constantly trying to lure us over the foul line so that we can be hurt or deprived of our points. It is up to us to stay close to the Lord and well back from his line so that we may keep the rewards we have earned. Colossians 2:18 says, “Let no one cheat you of your reward…” 

A Final Thought About Judgement

Maybe, like me, you haven’t thought of bumper bowling in a very long time. It is kind of a weird comparison for the Christian walk, but it works. No matter what size ball we have been given, it’s up to us to use the bumpers to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow path and try to hit the pins that make a big difference for others and will reap rewards in heaven. Every single one of us will appear before the judgement seat of Christ. We must all give an account, and we all want to hear those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” After all, pleasing Jesus is the very best prize we could win.

Do you like analogies? Try reading It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It’s an article that compares a dishwasher to aspects of the Christian life. Or, try Born Again: All About That Butterfly Life. An article about being born again using the analogy of metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly. Or, Check out my YouTube Channel where I will read all my posts to you while you do something else.

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