Here’s a great irony: I love to play a game – golf – that I am only marginally competent at playing.
And then there’s this: With each passing year, it seems, I surrender a bit more of my (already congenitally-limited) skills to time’s relentless march.
One peculiar casualty: my ability to hit a driver. No doubt, it’s as much a mental affliction as it is a physical one. But the reality remains the same: When I attempt to hit the Big Stick, disaster almost always ensues.
So I made an adjustment a few years back. I started hitting my 4-iron off the tee, sacrificing a significant amount of potential distance…for the relative assurance that I’d be able to find my ball…and play the next shot without penalty. It’s a strategy that makes most of my golfing buddies shudder. But hey, it works for me.
Or I should say “worked.” Past tense. Because a few weeks back, on the second swing of a match, my trusty 4-iron snapped in two.
It’s hard to describe the feeling that afflicted my spirit in that moment. With 8 holes yet to play, I knew the present match was, in all likelihood, lost: I could no longer use…the one club I use most often…in the course of a round. And the peril stretched beyond the moment: I could feel the rest of my season slipping away, too.
Morose. Bereft. Sullen. Yeah, I must’ve been great company after the round that day…as I shared the details of my idiosyncratic golf tragedy with the other members of the league.
Even so, grace was already at work in my misery. I see that, now…because my tale of woe moved several other golfers to unleash acts of mercy in the days that followed. One by one they came, offering “replacement” clubs they themselves could not hit – a veritable parade of 4-irons and hybrids (plus a driver!)
The jury is still out on whether I can learn to swing any of these sticks effectively. But I notice that my spirit has been lifted considerably, by the Christ-like generosity of my league-mates. It’s almost as if I’ve been experiencing my own personal trek through Psalm 23:
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your [4-irons] and your [hybrids]
that give me courage.
I get the feeling, too, that I’m not the first guy who’s ever been blessed in this sort of way. As St. Paul notes in this week’s second reading, grace often moves into – and transforms – seemingly painful situations.
I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.
Nor is it at all unusual for Christ to make his saving presence known, through the kindness of others:
It was kind of you to share in my distress, [proving that] my God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.