Story

By Eric A. Clayton

My brother and I recently found ourselves at a pirate-themed, boardwalk-bound miniature golf course.

It looked exactly the way you’re imagining: a sassy robotic parrot out front, as welcome, crushing the pun game; an enormous pirate accented by a very tall sword, a very thorough eye patch and very disconcerting grin; and, an ever-present pirate ship around which the entire course was constructed, equipped with more canons than seemed necessary to guard against the family fun swashbuckling happening about.

In other words, it was perfect. An A-plus miniature golf course that has – and will continue to – stand the test of time.

My only note – and this is minor, really I’m not complaining at all – is that the playlist reverberating from the pile of tiny rainbow-colored balls at the entrance to the depths of the alarmingly teal water near the eighteenth hole was somewhat short. Still excellent; just short.

We were golfing with my daughters – ages four and two – and I’ll grant, we were moving at a leisurely pace, what with neither able to properly hold their respective clubs, let alone swing them. We had plenty of time to absorb the sounds around us.

“Is that the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song?” I said aloud.

My brother scrunched up his forehead, thinking. “Nah,” he replied. “It just has the sound of a vaguely movie soundtrack.”

I nodded. “Still epic, though.”

My brother bobbed his head in agreement.

Those seven or so songs on repeat did lend a dramatic flavor to the whole putting-tiny-colored-balls-along-planks-of-wood-into-also-tiny-holes experience. Dare I say, it was a bit transportive.

Of course, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve had a favorite song come on the radio or pop on your Spotify playlist. You’ve heard some catchy tune playing at a shopping mall and you have your workout mix ready to go. You know how your favorite scenes in movies and TV shows are somewhat elevated by the actual movie soundtracks at hand. The music can change your mood, your attitude, give you an extra bounce in your step.

This isn’t about music, though.

What I wonder is this: Is God playing some vaguely movie soundtracks in our lives right now? Is there something going on that, if you were forced to slow down for a moment – say, the exact amount of time it takes a two-year-old to play through eighteen mini-golf holes – would you be transported somewhere, elevated by the Spirit, able to glimpse things that are otherwise elusive?

Is our God of surprises surrounding us with some grace-filled air that, if we paused to breathe deeply enough, we’d realize everything around us was holy and a manifestation of a God who is deeply concerned with our very selves?

Vaguely movie soundtracks are not actual movie soundtracks. But that music reminded my brother and I of something else, something more, pointed the way to a memory, a feeling, a shared understanding. It was there, in a vague way.

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,” Paul writes to the Corinthians. “At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)

We might not yet be able to perfectly see God at work, but we can glimpse the Spirit moving about and tune in to our own role in realizing God’s great dream. So, sink into the hints and whispers and vague sounds of God all around.

There might be more than pirate ships and boardwalk planks to be seen.

This reflection is part of an award-winning weekly email series. If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

Eric A. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day and IgnatianSpirituality.com. His fiction has been published by Dark Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian. Follow Eric’s writing at ericclaytonwrites.com.

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