He bowled a 299. For those of you who aren’t familiar with bowling, 299 is one point away from a perfect game. With every swing of his arm and release from his hand, he threw a strike. Frame after frame, all 10 pins went crashing down. It came down to the last throw in the 10th frame. He walked up, found his spot, thrust the Wii remote forward, and released the “ball” just as he did every time before. Only this time not all 10 pins fell to the ground. The 7 pin (in the back left corner) remained standing, untouched. Joe was one pin shy of a perfect game. Everyone in the room gasped, grimaced, and groaned. We all felt the letdown with him.
When it was all said and done, someone in the room said, “Well, at the end of the day, what matters most is how many pins you knock down, not how many you leave standing.” At that moment I thought to myself Wow! How simple, yet how profound.
Think about it. How often do we fix our thoughts on the one pin that didn’t fall? How many times do we dwell on our falling short of perfect? We experience some degree of success, but we can’t help but remind ourselves (and others) of our failures when we get there. We accomplish something, but are quick to point out, and sometimes wallow in, our weaknesses. Sometimes our flaws, faults, and failures are all we can think about. And it doesn’t take long to get mired down in that muddy way of thinking.
Back in the 1st century, the Apostle Paul encouraged the church at Philippi by saying, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT). You see, the Philippians, much like us, had issues, shortcomings, flaws, and imperfections. And Paul was urging them to not dwell on their deficiencies, but to flood their minds with all things godly.
We certainly can get stuck thinking about the pins we left standing—the things we failed to accomplish, the opportunities we missed, the ideas we neglected, the conversations we blew, the piles of things left unattended, etc. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t take long to get mired down in that muddy way of thinking. But check out what Paul said next: “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me…” (Philippians 4:9, NLT). Why practice? Because unfortunately, this way of thinking is not automatic for us. We must train our brain to fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
You’ve heard the old adage “Practice makes perfect.” Well…maybe not perfect, but it does make progress. So celebrate the pins you have knocked down. Look at your accomplishments for what they are. Rejoice in your progress. Revel in your victories along the way. Saturate your thoughts with the good things of God. Because after all, at the end of the day, what matters most is how many pins you knock down, not how many you leave standing.