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by Maria L. Evans

Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is great power to redeem.

It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

“The most important thing you need to know about zoysia is this:

The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.”

–my old golfing buddy Tom Wylie

If someone were to ask me to come up with a modern parable about “change and growth within the church,” I’d start talking about the year my favorite golf course put in zoysia fairways.

Years ago, when I was not living in the more rural environs, I used to get my fix of needing to be outdoors every Saturday and Sunday at a local public golf course. Spending four and a half hours in the confines of that green cathedral was my version of church back then. The tension that rocked the regulars at that golf course was the decision to put in zoysia fairways, because of their slightly more environmentally friendly nature, as well as their relative ease of upkeep. The long term benefit of them was palpable. However, the cost of establishing them and the initial outlay of material to maintain them was formidable.

Of course, in preparation of this, all our season passes went up in price. As you can imagine, there was much grumbling. Some people decided that if they were going to have to spend that much money, they might as well spend a little more and join a private club. It was disheartening sometimes to see that some people I thought liked hanging out there because they liked our companionship…well, I guess one could say I discovered that sometimes companionship fails in the face of finances.

Then came the large-scale destruction of the fairways the next fall, near the end of the season, and the mess that next spring in the replanting phase. The management would tear up part of every fairway but not all of it, and replant section by section with the little zoysia plugs. More grumbling ensued. Playing a round of golf was definitely not as fun. Seemed like no matter how well I was hitting the ball, I’d end up in those muddy bare spots more often than not. Everyone’s handicaps inflated. It was hard to set up our little side betting games because no one could tell what anyone’s handicap really was anymore, despite what their card said, and it felt unfair at times. More people gave up their season passes. There were rumors that the course was losing so much money there was consideration that it be sold. I fretted greatly over that, because I loved the company of the geeky scientific types that were my golfing buddies.

But my buddy Tom was a semi-retired professor in the agricultural sciences, and he kept telling me how zoysia grows, per the quote above. He kept telling me I had to be patient, that the establishment of zoysia took three years just to get off the ground, and there really wasn’t much a person could do about that except nurture it and wait. Even then, he’d say, zoysia didn’t really get lush and firmly established until seven years had passed. He talked about the environmental benefits of zoysia–how it used less water, managed to choke out many weeds on its own, and prevented erosion. He talked about how once established, a ball on it sat up a little better and a person could get a decent swing at it without hitting the baked summer Missouri ground and bouncing their club and messing up the shot. The only downsides were its slowness, and the fact it turned brown earlier than other grasses, so the course would not look as pretty in the early spring and late fall.

I had no choice but to believe him, because he seemed to know what he was talking about.

Three years later, he was right. We really did have almost as decent a course as we had before the transition. Seven years later, we had a lush, amazingly durable course that took less maintenance and made for a pleasurable round of golf. That’s not to say there wasn’t a price–the group of people that I called my golf buddies changed quite a bit over those seven years. Some were no longer with us, but new ones had appeared–it wasn’t “the same,” but it all still seemed very okay. I won’t deny I missed some of those who made up our group in the past, but I also enjoyed the new blood. Of course, the day came that I was no longer part of the mix, either, when I moved to Kirksville. But I look back at that course, and the two holes-in-one I had on it (including being the first hole-in-one on the totally reconstructed fifth hole) with much fondness, because I learned some necessary lessons on my spiritual journey that I didn’t even know was a spiritual journey at the time. I just thought I was playing golf.

What would happen if we took many of the tensions in our lives, and treated them like zoysia?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid


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Great points! I am a golfer too especially in summer when I can be nearer a course in Maine. Started in Scotland where golf is indeed for all! (In distinction from other places where one has to have $$$ to play).

Is Tom a golfer too?

Maria L. Evans

Thanks, Deirdre, for your kind words. I’d say you’re pretty close, but I would add that weekly golfers don’t just “play golf,” they ARE golfers. LOL (Just like we are Christians, Episcopalians, etc.) Not sure if the new people believe in botanists, but as the first person in the story, I knew I believed my friend Tom, and I trusted he was a satisfactory enough botanist not to lie to me. so maybe that is part of the parable, too…that who we see as the “strong Christians” in a group, we can’t discern God’s will but we do see things through the lives of others who appear to be stronger than ourselves.

Would love to hear what insights your students get this spring!



This is a marvelous parable. Thanks so much!

Let me get the details straight (please correct me if I get them wrong):

a) we can’t keep our fairways the way they were (unstated in your story) due to water costs (and other things about which I know nothing)

b) but we want to keep playing golf

c) so we need to plant Zoysia grass which takes three years to root and flourish

(and resists diseases, and salt water, prevents erosion and thrives in different climates)

d) while the grass is planted there is grumbling from the public golfers and some cease to play. Others keep hoping. Maybe members of private golf clubs feel superior(?)

e) there is more grumbling the next year and other departures but

f) new people come along who believe in botanists and the need for changes they cannot yet see and

g) finally the grass grows in year three and we resume or simply start playing golf with different people and in better conditions so that we all (and the grass) thrive.

Maybe I could use this in my class on Parables this Spring???

Maria L. Evans

Thanks, Tom.

Tom Sramek Jr

Sounds like a great parable of the church!

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