GOLFING IN GRACE
BY: STEVE McVEY
Other men often ask me if I play golf. I’m never quite sure about how to answer that question. Can one really be said to play golf if he consistently shoots one hundred, and doesn’t even count his bad shots? Is it still considered playing golf if you need to take a compass with you so that you can find your way out of the woods back into the fairway at almost every hole?
I’ve almost wondered if the Apostle Paul was a golfer when we wrote in Romans 7:15, “I don’t understand myself at all. I’m not doing the things I want to do, but keep doing the things I hate.” A serious examination of the verse proves his statement had nothing to do with golf, but at first glance one might wonder. I’ve expressed that same sentiment on the golf course many times. Strangely enough, I hated golf when I first began to play. It was embarrassing to play with men who were required to wait while I was in the woods searching for my ball, or fishing it out of the water hazard. Before I learned to take so many balls in my bag, I felt badly when it became necessary for them to give me a ball from their bag at practically every hole so that I could finish the game.
I determined that I was going to play golf well. So I tried hard. I would square off, address the ball, say a short prayer, and swing – I’d swing with all my might. My plan was to make the green in two strokes, if not one.
However my golf ball, obviously possessed by an evil spirit, would react the same way every time. It would slice and immediately find the nearest entrance into the woods. Sometimes my club would barely hit the top of the ball on the tee, causing it to fall off the tee and gently roll twenty or thirty feet in front of me. Meanwhile, my playing partner would have knocked his ball out of sight. I felt like he must be thinking I was a little girl, wearing laced underwear and everything. No man could possible play golf that terribly.
My blood pressure would shoot straight up and I would find myself at times wondering if there really is a God. I felt like a pastor friend, who said that he is so bad at golf that he eventually gave it up and started preaching against it as a sin. But, I would determine to try harder on the next hole. I resolved to hit with greater force– to hit straighter, more accurate. But the next hole would produce the same results.
One day, on the back nine, an epiphany came to me. I was standing on a tee box, waiting for my playing partner to hit his perfect shot. I began to look around at the surrounding scenery on this hole. The natural landscape around me was beautiful. Have you been on a golf course? They are some of the prettiest places you’ll ever see in life.
As I moved through the back nine holes, I found myself not thinking about my game so much as I was enjoying the beauty that surrounded me. I was lulled away from the thought of my score and caught up in the beauty of the course. My score was already so high that I knew I would once again be in triple digits, so I decided to forget my score and just enjoy the beautiful spring day. So I did.
When I came home that day, for the first time, I was relaxed and in a good mood. I hadn’t played a perfect game, but I had enjoyed a perfect day. Ever since that time, I don’t go to the golf course to play a good game of golf. I go to enjoy the companionship of the friends who endure my game and to enjoy the beauty of it all.
My golf game and my Christian life are a lot alike. When I try hard to live the Christian life, I always find myself off the fairway where life is intended to be played. I find myself in the woods of sin (defined biblically as “missing the mark”), discouragement, frustration. However, if I just relax and realize that I don’t have to have a perfect score in my Christian walk, I really enjoy life. Some people view golf as a sport. I view it as a game.
Some think the Christian life is a test. The Bible teaches it is a rest. (See Matthew 11:28) As you move down the fairway of life, take the lesson I’ve learned about the Christian life on the golf course. Don’t try so hard. Just relax and enjoy the game. Don’t miss the Life by trying to succeed at life. Christ sometimes gets lost in what many call “Christianity.”
Jesus isn’t upset when you don’t shoot par. He just wants you to enjoy spending your day with Him. He wants to show you the beauty that surrounds you as the two of you move through life’s course together. Don’t try to hit the ball so hard. Just relax and swing a natural, slower swing. It’s not up to you to hit straight or far by sheer strength. Let the club do the work it was created to do. And don’t keep your own score anymore, because Jesus doesn’t. Just relax, and enjoy the game. Although it’s January, it’s a little warmer outside today. I think I may call a friend and go play golf. I can predict my score already, but who cares? I just want to play the game and enjoy the company of my friend for another day.
Copyright, 2003, used by permission. Steve McVey, Grace Walk Ministries, www.gracewalk.org
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