I experience a combination of slight envy together with bemused bewilderment when others share how they spend their downtime. I am mildly jealous of one friend who is passionate about carp fishing. I covet the thrill that he feels when parking his tiny tent on the mushy bogland by a lake that is a mosquito hotel. He sits there for three days, undisturbed and unwashed. When at last he hooks a carp (some of which he has caught before, and knows by name), he takes a selfie of him and the wide-eyed fish lovingly cradled in his arms, and then releases it back into the murky depths. I can’t decide whether to emulate him or encourage him towards psychotherapy.
Something similar happens when I hang out with golfers. I loathe the game, being possessed of a spasm rather than a swing. The last time I played, I got teamed up with some Japanese gentlemen who were very, very good at golf and about as good with English as I am with the Japanese language, where I am limited to a single word, which is sushi.
After seven holes of me gouging great clods of turf out of previously pristine greens, taking 15 shots on a par three hole, and usually missing the wretched ball altogether, they both fled, after much apologetic bowing.
I don’t really have any hobbies. I am partial to a glass of wine, but that’s not something to get too passionate about. People who do often end up joining a club called rehab.
But 40 years of Christian life and ministry has taught me that God does have a primary hobby. It’s called redemption. I’m not just talking about the wondrous act of cosmic rescue achieved at the cross.
Instead, I’m talking about God’s amazing ability to bring good out of what was bad. He takes the myriad muck-ups and messes that we humans create, and brings something beautiful out of them. He mines treasure out of our trashier episodes. I’m not being irreverent in tagging this as God’s hobby. A hobby is often an unusual action that brings great pleasure to the hobbyist.
Israel huffed and puffed and stamped her national foot, demanding a human king. But out of that rebellious uprising came not only the disaster that was Saul, but golden boy King David. Yet even David hooked up with the bathing beauty that was Bathsheba, and added murder to the sin of adultery. But then out of the marriage between David and Bathsheba came wise Solomon. And from his line came the wisest and greatest royal, the King of kings himself.
Later, Judas sold Jesus out and the brutal Romans did their worst – but this vile morass leads to the greatest turnaround in human history, as the cross, the instrument of death, becomes the tree of life, its eternal fruit available to all.
God’s redemptive hobby can be traced in smaller triumphs. Zealous types stumble and fall – but become more compassionate because of their tumble. Bewildered believers who once had faith clinically figured out hit a wall of question marks. In trusting through the unexplained, they make friends with mystery. Suffering makes an unwelcome house call, and although nobody in their right mind would request a visit, pure gold faith is forged by the pain.
Few of us can look back on the pathway we’ve trod without any regret. But we serve the God of the turnaround. If we have our own horrible histories, not only does he wipe away their stain, but he can bring beauty out of the ashes of our mistakes and sins too.
Hear Jeff on Premier Christian Radio's weekly Sunday Sermon at 10.30am or download the podcast