The 3, 6 and 9th Bowling frames are my favorites. What other sport not only allows but encourages you to drink! These three frames are called “beer frames.” When I was in college, I received a college credit for Bowling – Tuesdays, and Thursdays, true story.
3, 6 and 9 are the “fun frames” because you either receive a treat from someone or you are able to treat someone. (Although it may not feel like a treat while you’re paying for the beers.)
The other frames never really interested me which is why I’m not a serious bowler. The other frames were just stepping stones toward those “fun three.”
But there they are; those other frames – 1,2,4,5,7,8 and that defining the 10th frame.
Frames 1 and 2 are those formative years of ours. Finding the right shoes, the right weight ball (not too heavy but not too light which more easily leans toward the gutter. You get to know your teammates – some perhaps for years while others just pass through. Jesus chose twelve bowlers, not because of their skills but because of their passion. He saw something in them that triggered and excited something in him. “Maybe these guys can really pull off this ‘Kingdom of God’ stuff,” Jesus might have thought to himself.
“Oh, finally, here’s frame 3. I get to take a break and this time I get to receive a beer.” Perhaps, frame 3 is a graduation of some kind, grade school, high school, college or technical school. The first sip tells you that you’ve made it through life’s first mark and you feel great and proud of yourself.
Frames 4 and 5 bring the responsibilities of using those newly gained talents. Now’s the time to be tested. You’ve had those earlier frames to get yourself warmed up and ready; now the work really begins. I don’t like those electronic signs which show everyone’s scores. Good or bad, it’s clearly visible for all to see. (It was bad enough during a bad game to just have your teammates look at that low score next to your name.) That’s what frames 4 and 5 brings. Scrutiny. Evaluation. Comparison. Jealousy. Competition. Success or failure. You can’t help but wonder when…
“Oh wait! It’s not “Miller Time,” it’s “Frame 6 Time.” Another breather. The second pause to this game that is sometimes just like life. There may be slight milling around during this break. Talk about family changes, updates about houses or jobs, gossip about people you hardly know or sharing a stupid joke that you heard at work. Before the other team wonders what happened to you, you all gather for frames 7 and 8.
7 and 8 frames get a little easier. You’re comfortable now in your game. Either you’re slightly ahead of others, clearly ahead, solely behind or you just don’t care. Take your pick and you can link someone’s name to it. This is Jesus’ proving ground. Does he go through with this “God thing” to death or just chalk it up as a bad idea from a God he barely knows. He kneels at a stone and with a sweaty brow powerfully says, “If this can pass, I’m all for it. But if it is your will, I’m all in.” The other bowlers are sleeping off the two beers from frames 3 and 6 while Jesus continues his rumination, his doubts, his fears and truly his passion. He does this in private because no one else can capture, own, or live what he, himself, needs to do.
Oh yes, Jesus has read all the Ann Landers columns for years, the self-help books, friends from all over told him what was best for him and what the future held for him. He’s digested it all and now the 7 and 8 frames call him to something greater than himself. He suspects what it might be but is not entirely sure. He prays what he hopes it will not be but knows what he thinks it will be.
“Thank goodness, it’s the 9th frame. I thought it’d never come. Another beer! Only one more frame to go before I can place this heavy ball back into my bag. This heavy ball that has carried whatever I never wanted, what was placed upon me by life, what I carried inside myself that makes it so very, very heavy.
Roy Clark sang the song, “Yesterday When I Was Young,” and the song uses “tongue” as an image – a tongue to describe life’s regrets, successes, rewards, and punishments. Who would have thought of using a “tongue” as an image for life? Charles Aznavour. (Who would have thought of “Bowling” as an image for a Sunday sermon? Me!)
He begins the song…
“Yesterday when I was young
The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue.
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game,
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame.
The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned
I’d always built to last on weak and shifting sand.
I lived by night and shunned the naked light of the day
And only now I see how the years ran away.”
He concludes the song…
“There are so many songs in me that won’t be sung,
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue.
The time has come for me to pay for
Yesterday when I was young…”
Enjoy Roy Clark’s, “Yesterday When I Was Young”
The 10th frame. It’s your final throw and the game is completed. The shoes and ball are safely tucked into your bag, your teammates wave and smile as they return to their homes and families and as Roy sings, “Only I am left on stage to end the play.” This play, this game we call life. Jesus played all the frames and came out to be to the Son of God. Who would have thought? And now what lives within us is a Kingdom of complete mercy, total forgiveness, and an enduring hope.
There are many opportunities in between those 3, 6 and 9 frames but it is those frames that help define and make us who we are today.
Whatever the weight of your life’s bowling ball, carry it carefully because it contains concerns for your children and friends, our society and your own well-being. Carry it carefully, hold it close to your chest, and even when it gets too heavy but never, ever left go of it.
Those shoes that you would never wear in public are safely tucked away in memories, reminiscences, passing thoughts about your past.
The jersey? Keep your jersey because it represents community, fellowship and family. Your jersey doesn’t say on the back, “Wonder Bar” but it says that you led a life to the best of your ability, you’ve made mistakes and you’ve accomplished successes. The mistakes, Lord, are for you to unravel and figure out. I only want to hold on to my successes.
Do you think Jesus kept his life’s bowling jersey with the same message on the back of it? I think he did because we’re on the same bowling team.
Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Muse,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture
“Living Faith’s Mysteries,” reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas, & Lent/Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,” reflections on the Catholic Church
and American culture
The newest book is “Letters From My Cats,” a collection of writings
from my cats’ perspectives