I gave half-a-thought the other day to pulling up stakes and moving to China. The impetus was a story I read online, noting that (technically), golf is illegal there.
So moving to China seemed like a reasonable solution to me – a way to end my obsession with a game I’ve struggled to enjoy of late.
‘Obsession’ is the right word, I guess. How else to explain the fleeting thought that it’d be sensible to trek half-way around the world…in order to escape golf’s grip?
Trouble is, I’m not completely inept at the game. In fact, this season I’ve been sinking putts at a better rate than I have in years…and every week I manage to card a par or two, even a birdie now and again.
But my driver: Has IT gone south!
(Note the self-delusional fiction in that last statement: Like many would-be linksters, I find it easier to blame the club, rather than the person who wields it, for consistently delivering poor shots.)
Time and again in recent rounds, I find myself standing over second shots that are only 50 or 60 yards less-distant from the hole than the tee shots that preceded them. And let me assure you, a floozled drive is absolute agony. It pretty much ruins any chance of success on the hole, of course.
It also leaves you horribly exposed: Every member of the foursome has witnessed your failure. Some have commented; others, out of pity, have remained silent. But everyone has noticed. It’s plain for everyone to see: You’re not a golfer…you’re a fraud.
At least, that’s how the deviant chorus of whispers tends to play out in my head and heart: All sorts of dark emotions are stirred up by a poorly struck shot—bile, anger, self-loathing—emotions that significantly diminish the chance the next shot will be an improvement on the first.
‘Dude, c’mon: It’s only a game,’ you’re probably thinking. And that’s true enough.
Lately though (when not contemplating a relocation to China), I’ve found myself meditating about the depressingly familiar pattern that’s afflicted my spirit out on the links.
The game is trying to teach me something, I think. I’ve been praying about it. Heck, I’ve even confessed it – trying to name the nasty stuff that failure on the golf course seems to dredge up in me.
Name it, and then expose it to grace – this spiritual defect…laid bare by the deficiencies in my golf swing.
It’s a backwards sort of gift, I suppose. Golf relieves me of the notion (insistently and repeatedly) that I can ever approach perfection in life. The defects will always be there. At times, they will taunt me.
And so in a way, golf teaches me that I need absolution. Not resolution (although it probably wouldn’t hurt if I took a golf lesson again), but absolution: To know…no matter how dark the bile coursing through my heart…that You, Jesus, still have it in Your power to forgive me.
Not only is it in Your power, but You do—in fact—forgive me. Absolution is Your gift to me: An ever-present love and tenderness that coaxes me beyond the darkness in my heart…toward a place where it’s not quite so impossible to do Your will.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.