We were bored and bottom-of-the-bucket broke, so several of us junior highers decided to become caddies.   It looked easy on TV.  The caddie followed the pro around, lugging a bag of clubs.  Sometimes he whispered stuff in his ear like, “Hey check your fly. You’re on TV for goodness sake!”   We could do that.

Early the next morning the four of us walked to the course.   If GPS had been invented, we would have known that it was 11 miles away.  Maybe we should have consulted a map first?  Oh well!  We finally shuffled into the clubhouse in the late morning only to have our ambitions crushed. “We don’t use caddies here!”   Hmm!  Maybe we should have called first!  Oh Well!

There was an optimist among us.  He mentioned another course in Worthington, the next town over.  So, we back-tracked 6 miles and then caught a city bus.  It was now well after lunch time and I had just used my last 20 cents for bus fare.  It was worth it – better than a limo.

The bus reached our stop and we tried to get off, but the driver said, “That will be 10 cents!”  “Why?”  He said, “Because we entered Worthington and there is a surcharge of 10 cents.”   So, each of us begrudgingly dropped in another dime. 

I was last in line and in a panic.  The only thing left in my pocket was lint, but he wouldn’t let me off until I paid my 10 cents.   The bus was stopped, the driver was irked, the rest of the riders were grumbling with impatience, and my friends were already off the bus.

I suddenly got a premonition of the future – me, trapped in a bus, on an endless loop to nowhere.  If I were lucky maybe a girl would show up someday who had made the same mistake.  We could marry, I could work as the bus driver (white socks and all) and we would have little bus babies.  

The daydream was broken by the sound of a rattling coin in the fare box.  Another rider took pity and dropped in a dime – for me.   With humility I whispered, “thanks” and jumped off.

That was a ridiculously hopeless feeling, but it was not a feeling that was new to me.   I grew up with the idea that I had to pay my way to heaven.  I needed to go to church and pray and give and live a stellar life and then – drop it all in God’s celestial fare box.  That was the price to get to heaven.

I worked hard at all those things, but I would also wonder if what I did was ever enough?  What if my bus pulled up to heaven and God were to say, “Sorry buddy, you are 10 cents short. You aren’t getting off till you pay up.”?

It wasn’t until later that I learned that I could contribute nothing to my journey.  God looked at my good deeds and called them “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).  My efforts were costly, and they looked good, but they accomplished little.

Then I came to understand Jesus and the reason He came.  The apostle Peter wrote, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) NET Bible®   It was Christ who paid my fare.  He suffered and died on a cross in my place to bring me to God. 

When I accepted His gift, I was invited to get on the bus and when that bus finally stops at the gate of Heaven, I will move toward the exit in confidence because Peter used the word “once.”  Christ suffered “once” for my sins to bring me to God.  It was enough to cover every contingency.  Jesus paid it all – forever. 

From the bus stop we walked another mile to a posh country club.  It turns out, that they did employ caddies, but not the likes of us.  Besides, all the golfers had gone home to have the evening meal with their families.   So, with tails between our legs, we turned and walked home – which was another 10 miles.  

That day we ambitious but naïve kids walked about 26 miles and spent 13 hours doing it.  What did we learn?  Two things:  1) Mowing lawns is an easier way to make money; 2) It’s wonderful to have someone who is willing to pay what we are incapable of paying.

Enjoy the original song below!

Up the Hill. Written: Jim Johnson.  Vocals: Sharie and Jim Johnson