“Gutter Guards”

When my oldest son had his seventh birthday party we had it at a nearby bowling alley. I hadn’t been to a bowling alley in ages. It was a real treat and brought back some memories of my own childhood.

Sitting there watching these little six and seven year olds play I noticed that there were railings along each side of the bowling lane, in order to keep the little fellows’ balls from going into the gutter–the gutter guards. It was quite a site watching these young novice bowlers toss their ball without aim and seeing it zig and then zag as it bounced from one gutter guard to the other until finally making it to the pins.

Then I looked over to the left and of course saw experienced bowlers gliding there way to the lanes, effortlessly tossing the ball straight down the middle.

I guess I’m a pretty strange guy, because as I sat there I thought I was watching a pretty good illustration of life, especially as we’re young or weak Christians, our aim is to hit the pin, but alas we zig and we zag, heading from gutter to gutter. What we need are some gutter guards!

This isn’t such a strange analogy, actually, I think it’s kind of Scriptural. For, although I won’t go so far as to say the Bible talks about bowling, it does describe our walk as staying on the “path” and it frequently describes the Godly life as staying in the “way”. In the verses below, note the use of the terms “way” and “path” and for my purpose, translate it “lane.” Likewise, when you read about going astray or wandering or wavering, think of gutters and zig zags.

Listen to the advice of Solomon:

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be true.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Prov 4:25-27 (KJV)

Could this not be advice to a bowler?

The Godly life is like bowling?

Like bowling, we need to stay on the path, in the lane and out of the gutter:

Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth.
Let not thine heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her paths.

Prov 7:24-25 (KJV)

Avoid those gutter balls:

Staying out of the gutter has its benefits:

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalms 37:4-5 (KJV)

Likewise, going into the gutter has its consequence:

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way…

Prov 15:10 (KJV)

But clearly we can’t do this ourselves, we need gutter guards, do we not?

Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?

Prov 20:24 (KJV)

But where will we find gutter guards?

God provides them:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his commandments.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

Psalms 37:23-24 (KJV)

Gutter Guard Number 1: Stay in the Word:

Listen to how the Psalmist prays to stay in the lane:

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous size
My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy lovingkindness.
I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before The.
I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD put me not to shame.
I will run the way of truth.
Thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my
Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to thine own understandings.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

Psalms 119:9-11, 27–37, 104 (KJV)

Likewise, Solomon also describes staying in the lane as being the fruit of being in the Word:

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; ” So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to his Word. Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk with Him. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his commandments. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

Prov 2:1-9 (KJV)

Gutter Guard Number 2: Staying In Fellowship:

According to the author of Hebrews, if we don’t want to zig and zag, we should fellowship with other believers:

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering;
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day

Heb 10:23-25 (KJV)

The Psalmist said the way was in the sanctuary:

I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember I will meditate also of all thy work, Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

Psalms 77:11-13 (KJV)

Gutter Guard Number 3: Prayer:

We need to pray to stay on the path. We need to ask God to guide us correctly to the pins and to keep us out of the gutter.

Let’s turn again to the prayers of the Psalmist:

Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path,

Psalms 27:11 (KJV)

And again,

Search me, O God, and know my heart: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalms 139:23-24

And yet again,

Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

Psalms 143:7-8 (KJV)

It’s not our bowling skill; it’s the gutter guards that guide us.

It’s not about increasing our skill; it’s about God’s grace in giving us gutter guards.

For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to the faithful. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity;
yea, every good path.

Prov 2:2-9 (KJV)

Paul’s promised us God would provide us with gutter guards also:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

So, the next time you bowl, you have something to think about. And the next time you pray or meditate, consider the lessons we learn from bowling.