Growing up in northern Minnesota, my dad and mom made a decision that would impact me for the remainder of my life. They decided that I should learn how to play golf.
Actually, there were some pretty significant factors that fed into that decision, not the least of which was this: we had 10 children in our family. We needed something in our lives that would help us to be able to be with one another, to learn how to live with one another and to understand what it meant to treat one another with respect. I also think that my mom needed a break from having so many of us around all the time. So my three older brothers and I became a natural foursome. Trust me, we needed this (or something like this) so we would learn how to get along.
It was in seventh grade when I was given my first set of clubs. During the summer months, the four of us would ride with my dad into town early in the morning (usually 6:00 a.m.). My father worked at the Blandin Paper Company, and his shift began at 6:30 a.m.. The four of us would take our golf bags and begin the long walk to the golf course — about five miles. Normally, someone would give us a ride. We usually got to the course before it was open. We’d tee off on the first hole and the marathon of golf would begin.
Getting along didn’t happen immediately, but over the course of time, we learned that you didn’t mess around like that on the golf course. Golf taught us about etiquette and manners and being polite around other people, which began to translate to our daily living. We began to get along and learned how to live with our differences. Now, some 50 some years later, we still try to get together — the four of us — play a course that we played when we were young. Last week we were at Nemadji Country Club in Superior, Wisconsin. We had a very nice time being together again and recounting the formative days of our youth. As it turned out, my dad and mom made a good decision, helping us to learn how to live together.
It might be a stretch to suggest that everyone in this world should learn how to play golf at an early age in order to learn how to get along with each other and embrace their differences, rather than argue and fight over them. That’s not possible, I know. But there is something that each one of us can do that can help us to appreciate the differences which exist between us.
That something is directly related to our own understanding of what we are after in this life. What is it that we want in our lives? Answers to that question varies from to be happy, to be safe, to be secure, to be at peace. There really is not one correct answer to this question, because everyone’s answer is different. So how we live in the midst of these different passions or pursuits of living makes all the difference. Paul, a person whose life’s pursuit was changed in a blinding moment, gives us a beginning on how we can make that pursuit or passion meaningful: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” — Romans 14:19.
I’ve discovered the importance of embracing the perspective of others. It doesn’t mean that I agree with them all the time. I still disagree with some perspectives my older brothers might have. What changes the game is how we shape our pursuit … looking for those things that will bring about peace and harmony and not division and separation. Building one another up instead of tearing one another down. It all begins with each person. Every person needs to decide for herself or for himself how they will pursue those things that will make for peace and the mutual upbuilding that Paul encourages.
The perfect example that models this for me is Jesus. He was always pointing his followers to the other pursuit … take the other path … follow the high road … turn away from the self and embrace what God has in store. To be sure, I didn’t learn all those things just being on the golf course. Many of them I learned in church, another place where my parents decided we would learn how to get along with one another.
In these remarkable days we are living in, where would you start to seek peace and bring mutual upbuilding to the world you live in?
Daren Flinck is pastor at Worthington's First United Methodist Church and Adrian United Methodist Church.