We are all familiar with the saying, "When God hands you a lemon, make lemonade." But what happens when God hands you an egg? That is what my husband and I are still trying to figure out because God did literally hand us an egg. Allow me to explain. With the economy down and the imports up, our business serving the billiard industry was struggling to survive. While at the proverbial "drawing board," we decided that it would be a good idea to diversify into another related product. Through the months we would discuss ideas, but none seemed right. Then one day we had some friends over to our home and they brought the outdoor game of Bocce Ball.
My husband and I are game players and we were surprised that we had never played this fun game. For those of you who are not familiar with how to play, the game is played as follows. While standing on one end of a grassy or dirt area a little smaller than a tennis court, a player throws out a small ball, called a pallino, so that it lands past the half way point of the playing field. Once the pallino is in place, players begin rolling larger, heavier balls towards it. After all of the larger balls have been rolled, whoever's team ball is closest to the pallino is the winner. The game is fun and challenging as you try to roll your ball closest to the pallino or kick your opponent's ball out of the way or even push one of your own balls closer. We played Bocce Ball with our friends for about three hours even into the darkness and after they left my husband and I both agreed that Bocce Ball was a game to keep in our repertoire of entertainment activities.
That is when the idea hit! Remember the good idea that we needed so that we could diversify our product? We could make a game so that people could play Bocce Ball on a pool table. We have a pool table and we love to play pool, but we experience many occasions when our guests decline to play pool with us because they claim that they are "not any good at the game." Playing Bocce Ball on a pool table would be a fun game for everyone to play whether they had pool skills or not. Even though it was late, I scurried to the game closet and pulled down my childhood bag of marbles and pulled out my prize possession, my "Steely."
I put the steely out on one end of the pool table while my husband and I stood at the other end and we began rolling normal billiard balls towards it just like in Bocce Ball. Discouragement immediately set in because the game was not working right and it was not fun at all. Every time one of our billiard balls hit the round steely, the steely would roll away thereby messing up the strategy that we were trying to use to get close to it. In addition, there was not much challenge to roll a ball less than four or five feet toward another ball, in this case, the steely. With discouragement at the game not working on the smaller playing surface of a pool table and encouragement that the concept of the game would be fun to play on a pool table, we decided to wrap it up for the day and "sleep on it."
"Sleeping on it" actually works sometimes as the next morning my husband and I both awoke with a similar idea. We needed to roll the billiard balls toward an object that was not round! Now before you think that this was a "square" idea, that is exactly what we tried: a square. Needless to say that a square did not work because the rolled balls would just hit it and deflect away. No excitement there. We needed something with a boomerang effect, something that would wrap around when hit so that the object ball would generally stay in the same area if it was contacted. That is when our next idea began to hatch. You guessed it. The egg.
An egg shaped ball would just rock back and forth when hit on the end or turn in a tight or wide circle when hit on the side. My husband immediately went to work on the lathe and made an egg shaped ball so that we could test our theory. IT WORKED! The reaction of the egg shaped ball resulted in fun and laughter as our rolled balls hit against it, but the game was still lacking something because there was no challenge to roll the billiard ball directly toward the egg shaped ball. It was too easy and frustrating because the billiard balls began to bunch up in front of the egg and we found that we had to begin using rail shots to get behind the balls. My husband and I looked at each other almost simultaneously and with a light bulb over both of our heads, we set the first rule of our new game. All balls rolled toward the egg shaped ball must hit a rail first on its way toward the egg shaped ball and all balls rolled must hit a rail first before contacting any other ball on the table. With one egg and with one simple rule that we had to hit a rail first, we played our new game competing against each other for the next few hours and had a blast.
In real life, we have a saying when things are not going right. We say, "I've hit a brick wall" or "My life stinks like a rotten egg," or "I've been handed a lemon." We have a tendency to focus on the bad when many times the bad from our perspective is leading toward good from God's perspective. Most of us are familiar with the Bible verse, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them."(1) Let's face it, Jesus was called according to God's purpose and He was crucified which demonstrates that sometimes our perspective of "good things" is different from God's perspective of "good things." And that is exactly what God began teaching me through our progress of developing and marketing our new pool table game using an egg shaped billiard ball that we named Bobble Ball.
Just as the name implies, we "bobbled" up and down through encouraging times and discouraging times throughout the start up phase of introducing our new egg shaped billiard ball to the market. Even though we received positive feedback from every person who tried the game, we were discouraged at times because the sales were not keeping pace with the expenses. We were continually seeing God's timely involvement throughout the development process, but our discouragement would get the upper hand sometimes.
During one of these times when I was questioning God as to how He could be working out anything "good for His purpose" from our new venture that He had obviously led us into, I prayed specifically for God to give me some sort of encouragement in His Word during my morning Bible reading. Throughout my relationship with God, I have frequently experienced His coordinating my daily Bible reading to include a passage which specifically addresses a circumstance that I was facing in my life. God has been very faithful to communicate with me through His Word so that I read the Bible every morning with anticipation for what I am going to learn. But when you put God on the spot and pray specifically for an encouragement that speaks to the very issue that you are facing and God responds immediately ... WOW! ... your faith is strengthened further in knowing that He really does listen and care!
Let's get back to the story. Remember I had just prayed for encouragement because I was questioning whether we had really followed God's leading in pursuing the egg brained idea of the egg shaped billiard ball. Well, God had prearranged my consecutive reading so that I was reading in the book of Luke that day, specifically Luke chapter 11. Now before I give you the verse that will be one of my many proofs that God exists, I must explain that I have been blessed to have been raised in an environment where I have been exposed to the Bible and its teachings. I went to Sunday school, my parents taught me the Bible at home, I attended a Christian university, I have attended Bible studies, and I have read the entire Bible many times through. And yet, God answered my prayer with a verse that I do not remember ever hearing in my entire life.
The verse is actually one that has a very familiar counterpart which you might remember. Jesus is teaching about prayer and uses the following example. "For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. You fathers - if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him."(2) Do you remember these verses? So did I. And yet in that same verse, Jesus lists two other items alongside the fish and the snake to make the same point. Can you name them? I was not able to until I read the verse and I will never forget them for the rest of my life. In fact, not believing my eyes, I jumped up from the table, went to our bookshelves, and looked up the verse in various versions of the Bible just to make sure that these were the exact items that Jesus used. They were. I then went back to the table and stared at my open Bible still lying there with these words looking up at me, "Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion?" My heart was calmed with peace as I realized that no matter what happened with our venture, God had just answered my prayer. God was, and is, worthy of my trust even with an egg shaped billiard ball.
The egg that I was beginning to think was rotten, was really our gift from God. As I started to think how that could be since our sales were struggling, I began to see where God was opening the doors for our egg to be used for His glory, not ours. We were playing the game at retirement homes and senior centers with people who are seeking friendship and companionship with others in their later years. Many of these people are widows or widowers and it has been a blessing for us to be part of an event where they can enjoy a fun activity with others. My memories went back to a day when I was watching my husband compete in a Bocce Ball tournament at a retirement home when one of the 90 year old residents who knew about our connection to Bobble Ball came up and asked me to go inside and play with her. She kept me at the pool table for two hours until the dinner bell rang and her smile of gratefuleness that she gave to me as we parted ways was a reward in and of itself.
We were also playing the game in youth centers among kids who come from a variety of difficult family backgrounds. These kids play our game with enthusiasm and skill. They amazingly hold each other accountable to the rules and I have even witnessed kids committing a foul, calling it on themselves, and walking to the end of the line so that they can have another chance to play. And yet, the memory that stands out most in my mind is the day that I left the youth center and as I stood on the step digging my keys out of my purse, I heard the door open behind me and, as I turned to look, a young boy stuck his head out and said, "Thanks for playing with us. Have a good week." And then he went back inside. I remember my eyes welling up with tears. That one bit of happiness that we had brought to this child's life was worth more than a thousand Bobble Ball sales.
Yes, God was with us in our egg venture. Maybe not in a successful business model mode, but definitely in a successful God model mode. As I continued to sit at the table pondering the verse and what God might have in store, He brought to mind another verse that would put everything into perspective. He reminded me that "Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us."(3) God was opening the doors for Bobble Ball to be played and enjoyed among the young and the old, the orphans and the widows. God was using the egg for His purposes, not mine. And that got me to thinking about the scorpion.
Before reading the verse, I was considering that the egg was a rotten idea for God to lay in our laps. I was accusing God of giving us a scorpion instead of an egg because the startup of our new venture definitely had its stings. And then I began to understand. I was the one defining God's gift of the egg as a scorpion, not God. My human perspective was seeing the bad while God's godly perspective was seeing the good. Remember our proverbial saying, "When God hands you a lemon, make lemonade." We can look at the lemon as either sour or sweet and God's promise is that when we trust Him with the lemons of our life, He will add the sweetness of His love and care to make our sour lives palatable. I then considered the scorpion. From the perspective of most people, the scorpion would not be something that they would want to have contact with. The scorpion would be a bad thing. However, from the perspective of a pool player and the billiard industry, the "Scorpion" is a desirable billiard product to have and to hold. You see, in the billiard community, the "Scorpion" is one of many quality cue sticks available on the market. With the right perspective, the scorpion insect becomes the "Scorpion" cue stick just like the lemon becomes the lemonade and with that thought I began to understand what God was trying to teach me.
If I love God, and I do, I can be assured that He is coordinating both the good and seemingly bad things that happen in my life to work out in a manner that brings glory to Him. From our human perspective, we will naturally question His methods as we bobble through the ups and downs of life. But God has given us the example of everyday things as a reminder that He is listening, that He is answering, and that He is guiding us toward Himself and His purpose. He has given us the egg and the scorpion.
"Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! Luke 11:12