When the skunk scurried across the first fairway, perhaps I should have taken it as an omen.
Indeed, nothing about the circumstances said “auspicious” as we teed up on Friday for the Golf League Finale at Missouri Bluffs. A passing cold front had sent the temperatures plummeting, while touching off waves of near-freezing rain to further shiver our timbers.
Any sensible person would’ve headed straight back to the clubhouse. But heck, there was a championship to be contested – and Lance and I had been entrusted with the anchor match. So “wimping out” didn’t seem like much of an option.
On the other hand, regular readers may recall that I pretty much limped to the finish line this year, suffering the loss of my favorite club in a match a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve also been dealing with a persistent (and painful) mid-thoracic muscle strain. My back muscles have barking at me for weeks now – muscles I didn’t even realize I had until I overtaxed ‘em, swinging a golf club. So you could say I had good reason to temper my expectations as the contest began.
And then along comes the skunk. Which, in retrospect, turned out to be just about the only part of my round that didn’t stink on Friday.
At the outset, I hoped to be able halve the match…and salvage a point for my team. But it was not to be. Not even close, really. Inspired perhaps by wildlife, my opponent pretty much skunked me, never breaking a sweat along the way (if that were even possible on such a frigid day).
Imagine my delight, then, to discover that in the grand scheme of things my ineptitude mattered not a whit. Our team emerged victorious, needing not a single point from me. And all our names have been inscribed on the trophy, a permanent place in (Golf League) history secured.
Now, I’m not about to suggest that Divine Providence played a role in this fortuitous outcome. It’s a church league after all, and I’m pretty sure the Holy One has better things to do than pick sides in a playoff contested among fellow parishioners.
I did detect some slivers of grace peeking through the overcast October skies, however. Chief among them: the slow-dawning realization that I didn’t have to do this hard thing alone. In fact, I couldn’t have done it alone. I was physically incapable of accomplishing the task set before me…and yet, somehow, I still get to celebrate a championship with my teammates this year.
I celebrate with my teammates. I celebrate with my opponents, too, and all the good men who make up the League…and who so often find unexpected ways to show the face of God to me.
Sure, my back muscles may still be barking at me today…but my lips are open in praise, joining with the Psalmist to give thanks for all the unmerited blessings I receive:
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.