The gold ball story

April 19, 2019

When I was a child a nun once told us a story about why we should not sin. “If the Earth was a gold ball and every one million years a bird came by and brushed its wing against it, by the time the ball wore a way, was only a bit of eternity. That is how long you would suffer in hell, if you died with mortal sin on your soul.” Consequently, we all endeavored to do good and never sin! Another result of focusing on the punishment for sin was an overwhelming fear of God.

Daniel Fachting, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist, Lay Minister at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Clare, and Chancellor for Knights of Columbus Council #3029. He can be reached at or by calling (989) 386-8166.

He was keeping score and if we weren’t good enough, hell was ours for an eternity. It was not that the love of God was never mentioned, but it was not the focus for me. The emphasis for me was on the fact that I was bad, a worse sinner, and worthy only of hell. There was no hope for me.

Then, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a conversion experience. I fell in with a group of believers my age who led me to understand that God loved me. I was ready to accept that I could experience the love of God and accept Jesus who loved me. I began to focus on the Bible as God’s love letters to me and I began to understand his love for me. It was not that I gave up the ideas of hell and punishment, but it was no longer the focus of my relationship with Jesus. At that same time I met Mary Jo and we married. How could anything so wonderful have happened to me?

On Good Friday of 1972, when I was 22 years old, I was praying Psalm 22 which begins with “My God, my God. Why have you abandoned me!” I was overcome by emotion and I saw Jesus on the cross. I don’t know how long I cried. The result was that I will always know God’s love. Crazy, huh!

Later in life, as I was studying for my doctoral degree, a Lutheran minister shared with me a different version of the Gold Ball Story. He said it this way, “If the Earth was a gold ball and every million years a bird flew by and brushed its wing against it, by the time the ball wore away, was only a bit of eternity. THAT IS HOW LONG GOD WILL LOVE YOU.”

Today, I am grateful that I could have learned about God and his love for me. I am no longer traumatized by my early experiences. I am surrounded by a Church that preaches love and not fear.

“May the Lord bless and keep you. May He let His face shine upon you and give you His peace.”

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