Play the ball where the monkey throws it
JACKSON, MS – How many of you have thought about how often your day doesn’t go the way you planned it? It may not be any earth-shaking thing that you’ve got in mind, and it may not be something that urgent that has to be done that day, but as you start your day or think about the day before, you probably have in mind several things that you need to accomplish. Maybe some by noon and some in the afternoon, but how many times does that get altered? You may be one of those methodical people who outlines the whole day and you have five things that you need to get done that morning and seven things that afternoon.
For me, I do have a series of things that I want to accomplish or at least address during the day. They may be meetings. They may be readings. They may be places I need to speak or people I with whom I need to talk, but almost without exception if I think I’m going to get them done one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, they end up something like four, eight, one, three, and several left over.
There are some people that just really, really become a nervous wreck because life doesn’t fit in their systematic plan. They genuinely get upset by it. They live in perpetual anxiety and heartburn. Yet the fact is we do not know what a day holds. I so often think of James in his little book toward the end of the Bible where he said, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14). The truth is, we don’t.
For that reason, James goes on to say in the fourth chapter, verse 15, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” In all truthfulness, it doesn’t always come out the way we think it might. We trust God. We try to live somewhat flexible and trust the Lord to lead us because it is so easy to get upset, frustrated, ill-tempered, bad attitude, because life isn’t working out like we thought that it would or should or could. It rarely does, so get in line with the Lord and let Him help you when life isn’t working out like you thought it would or intruding events or shocking changes bring you to a point where you just don’t know what to do with life because it is so topsy-turvy.
A friend of mine was telling me the other day about an experience that he had while on a mission trip in Africa, a country where they were had a large city that was proud of its golf course on the edge of the metropolitan area. Though he was not a golfer, some of the folks there wanted to go play golf one afternoon. Just to have some fellowship with them, he went.
He got out on the golf course and saw something that was really strange. There were signs all over the golf course that said, “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.” He asked what that was about, and later on he would find out and see what it meant. The problem was that the golf course had areas around it that had monkeys everywhere. Just regular, wild monkeys that lived in that area. The monkeys would come out on the golf course and they were fascinated with the little white ball that came flying through the air and landed near them or even went on the green and the monkeys would run out there and grab the golf ball and throw it somewhere.
The people who kept up the golf course had tried several things to get rid of the monkeys. They had even built a fence. I don’t know what kind of fence it was, but they built a fence around the golf course trying to keep the monkeys out. I suppose they didn’t know that a monkey could climb on a fence, but it didn’t work. They had also tried noise makers to scare the monkeys off, but it had no effect at all. Many of the people who regularly played golf there got upset because where they hit their ball is not where the ball was when they had to hit the second and third time. The monkeys would run out there, get the ball, throw it to the other side of the fairway, or off the golf course.
After trying one thing after another to keep the monkeys away, they just conceded that they built the golf course in the monkeys’ domain and they changed the golfing rules to accommodate what happens on the golf course. So the sign said, “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.” That’s what they did. It’s hard enough to play golf when you just are playing against the elements or the wind or the frustrations of just trying to hit the thing fairly straight, but when you’ve got to deal with the monkey population, it’s even more difficult. The people who played the course that day as every day would just begin with the understanding that they would have to hit their ball wherever the monkey throws it.
The fact is that for nearly all of us, life is somewhat like that. Every one of us is going down the fairway of life and suddenly realize that something has affected the steps ahead and the next shot in life. Sure enough, the monkeys have been on the course. There are some amazing things that can take place when God changes the course in your life each day. Things that can either frustrate you or bless you. Things that can change the twists and turns of your road of life and take you down a path that is filled with new sights and new joys and new people and new opportunities. Some of you may never see those things. Some of you may never come to enjoy the monkeys of life throwing your ball around on the course, but you would choose rather to just be frustrated about it, angry about it, upset because somebody, something, some monkey pitched your golf ball off in a ditch and you can’t get over it.
James reminds us that the will of God is not always fully known when the sun comes up every morning and what you plan for the day is not in God’s plan and purposes for you. Things get shifted around and about mid-morning you realize, yep the monkeys in life have been at work again in my daily routine. Go with the flow. Go with God in the midst of what He has in store for you. Watch carefully and you may see a bright and shining blessing just ahead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Futral is the Executive Director-Treasurer for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.