By Andy Udovich
So I just did something I have never done before: I went disc golfing by myself. Now that all of you are in a state of utter shock and terror, let me explain. First, let’s take a mulligan and rewind … What the heck is disc golfing? Well, it’s an outdoor sport where you throw specially made frisbees into cages and count your throws like in real golf. A good friend introduced the game to some of us a few years ago, and now it has become a popular pastime among many of us here at RooCatholic. Ok, now that we are all on the same page with what disc golfing actually is, let’s move on. While I was going through my solitary round, my mind started to wander (in a good way). I started thinking of all the ways that our Christian spirituality has drifted into this sport. I pondered how the Holy Spirit has been working through this simple game to drive us closer to Him. How? You ask … Well let’s take a look at the Disc Golfing Works of Mercy:
Praise Our Creator
Disc golf is essentially a glorified hike. Imagine 18 cages set throughout a park. The courses span from open fields to deep woods, with paths, trails, lakes, and ponds. The sun is shining (usually), and the sky can be quite majestic as you walk through 18 holes. So many times we acknowledge the beauty of this moment we are able to share in God’s creation. It is worth taking a moment to appreciate a summer day, to raise our minds to God. This sets the stage for good things to happen as we travel through the course.
Invite the Friend
Disc golfing is a prime activity for both new and long-time friends. The sport requires little skill to play and at least it’s enjoyable to be outdoors. But it is also a great way to change an acquaintance into a close friend. The opportunities for conversation are as abundant as the brambles as you walk together through the course. And it can always be a bonding time to trudge through mud and poison ivy. Undertaking an adventure like this enables friendships to move beyond the surface and into the deep. They open doors that can lead us closer to God through each other. Be it disc golfing, going to the rec, or exploring downtown Akron restaurants, life is filled with opportunities like this to get to know your classmates and peers in deeper ways.
Acknowledge the Stranger
Despite the seeming absurdity of the sport, it is actually quite popular. It is common for our group to encounter several others along the way through the course. While we can be growing closer to each other, this is a prime time to share God’s glory with strangers in a quick interaction. A “How’s it going?” or “Have a good day, guys” can lift someone’s attitude. So don’t be afraid to look up at your passing classmates on campus. Friendliness is refreshing, and sharing a laugh with a stranger is special. Jesus met strangers all the time. He healed them and taught them. He encountered them. And they encountered Him.
Take the risk
Scenario: my frisbee is 20 feet from the cage. Quick mental evaluation: I could try to sink it in one throw … or I could just give it a simple toss and easily get it in two throws … But if I try to sink it, I could overshoot and end up with three throws. O! the dilemma. I wonder if St. Thomas Aquinas has anything on this complex situation … O wait, he does! He notes, “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port for ever.” What about Scripture? Check out Matthew’s Gospel where Peter walks on water. Yes, Peter eventually begins to sink, but at least he got out of the boat. That might have been on his resume for becoming the first Pope. Now back to my frisbee … if I simply toss the thing, I will never improve. I will always resort to the sure and easy road. If I step out of the boat and go for it, I may end up with an extra throw this time, but in the future I will be able to sink these throws with more confidence. It’s the timeless story of practice, of failure upon failure before success. I think it’s worth the risk, and boy are there risks we need to take to be the disciples God calls us all to be.
Focus your efforts in the right place.
By now I’m sure some of you are dying to throw some frisbees. And I don’t doubt the rest of you can care less about the frisbee portion of this blog. But stick with me here. A key to throwing a frisbee far is not by using your arms and wildly flinging the thing, but rather using the large muscles in your body to transfer force to the disc. Here’s the thing: Arnold Schwarzenegger could throw a frisbee with all his might, but a scrawny kid could out-throw him with the right technique. So put your muscles and your talents to good use. If you’re good at writing, or speaking, or listening, do that. Learn the strengths God has given you and work on your technique to employ them for His Kingdom. Of course strive to gain new skills, but hone those skills that are abundant and use them to bring the greatest possible glory to God.
Hunt for treasure
What is it about treasure hunting that pulls at our sense of adventure? Is it the reward? Or is it the hunt? Is it that sense of satisfaction you have when you find your frisbee 10 feet high in a tree? Well, it may not seem glorious to search tall grass and to wade into murky ponds, yet we still do. Call us crazy, call us frugal, but no matter how you look at it, we are going on a quest. And we don’t travel alone. If someone loses a frisbee, the whole fellowship stops and joins in the hunt until we find the thing (which most always happens). What else can we search for? Not only plastic discs, but courage and wisdom. How about that pearl of great price. How about a meaning to our trials. How about a perfect spouse. These are good treasures. Do whatever you can to find them. Search for them and know that your brothers and sisters will search with you. Even if it’s at the bottom of a pond.
Think Outside of Yourself
What is it about us humans that makes us so concerned about our own selves? Is it so that we can control what happens in life? Is it the self-reliant American culture? Whatever it is, we spend a lot of time concerned with “the bothersome thing I call ‘myself’” as St. Thomas More puts it. In disc golf, you can have a series of crappy throws that hit trees and land in swamps. But then your friend has a magnificent throw. It soars around trees as if it is a little drone. Do you congratulate him? Of course you do. You encourage each other and give high fives. You cheer him on instead of worrying about that frisbee you just lost. There is a time to be competitive, but there is not a time to enclose in on your own troubles. Rather, open yourself up to God and to others. Forget about yourself for once. You’ll be glad you did.
So there you have it. If God can work through frisbees, He can darn well work through all that we do. Search for God in the little things, and you’ll be surprised that the lessons aren’t so little. We are created to live in this world and there are so many things here that lead us to Him. Aim to the heights of Heaven in whatever you do. Look up and out, well unless your frisbee went down and in the dirt. Either way, seek Him and He will take care of the rest.