One of the articles in this issue features legendary Minnesota golfer Tom Lehman. Which gets me thinking about golf (it isn’t too hard, I confess). And the subject of golf, in turn, reminds me of a saying I once heard about the variables that determine how much a person will enjoy a round of golf.
“The enjoyment of a round of golf,” the saying goes, “depends on three things: First, WHERE you play; Second, HOW you play; And third, WHO you play with.” And the golfer listening thinks, “Yes, that sounds about right.”
But there’s a kind of surprise ending to this short little saying—kind of like a parable, I suppose—which concludes, “And if the last one is taken care of, the first two don’t really matter.” In other words, if the people you are playing with are people you want to be with—people you enjoy spending time with—nothing else much matters.
That’s a statement about gatherings—about the enjoyment we get by being together with people we know and like. And I do happen to think that there is great wisdom in the statement.
Who you are doing something with will generally trump just about anything else about that “something”—whether it’s a shared project, a game, an unexpected challenge or even a crisis. If you’re with people you know and love, the rest sort of takes care of itself.
So golf reminds us of the perhaps simple truth that life is better when you’re doing things—when you’re gathering—with people whose company you enjoy.
But golf teaches us something else about gathering, too. While it is true that generally golfers will set up rounds with people they already know, the way the game works means that it is almost inevitable that you will also regularly find yourself playing with people you don’t know. And these unexpected, unplanned connections are part of the joy of the game—the opportunity to build relationships with new acquaintances who share a similar passion and interest, and who may end up becoming dear friends.
My own sense is that life is richest when we have a good balance of these two types of gatherings. Certainly, we celebrate gatherings with those whom we already know and love—giving thanks for the gift of these deep and lasting relationships. But we should also give thanks for the opportunities God gives us to meet new friends and acquaintances—each of which presents an opportunity for us to learn and grow, and to open our hearts to another meaningful relationship in our life.
This summer, perhaps you might think of the community here at church in this way—as a place where you can deepen existing relationships; a place where you can connect with some new friends; and—very importantly—a place where you can invite others to become part of the beautiful community we share together.
This summer, may all of your gatherings be blessed.