Golf may perhaps be more than a game – at least in the case of my weak-willed spirit.
For golf, it seems, has a way of teaching me about certain spiritual defects, such as vanity.
That became plain yesterday, when I took part in a fund-raising tournament – Links to LaSalle. One of the perks of participation is to have a photographer snap a photo of the foursome…providing a pleasant memento of a day spent in fine golfing company.
In my case, that “photo op” (on the tee box of Hole #14) was the only time all day I lifted the driver out of my bag. Still can’t hit the driver, you see. But neither can my ego take the humiliation of appearing in a photo brandishing a 4-iron in its place.
Which is to say: I want to look like a real golfer, even if I spent the entire round relying on the drives of my teammates to put us in a position to score.
I suppose that’s one reason why I value the game I struggle so mightily to play: Golf never lets me take myself too seriously. As much as I love to hit the links, I have no illusions that golf will ever return the favor. It merely tolerates my presence, and offers only the occasional reward for my devotion.
Having said that, I must admit I nearly reached the end of my rope last week when playing a tune-up round. The outcome was anything but pretty: dozens of wildly ineffective swings, grossly mismanaged putts, and even a few whiffs mixed in for good measure. Afterwards, I was seriously considering giving up golf altogether.
Only something like “loyalty” and “friendship” compelled me to prepare for yesterday’s tourney…a process that included an unprecedented step. Before the round, I used a mechanical massager to loosen my back and shoulder muscles. Not a miracle cure, by any stretch of the imagination…but I did wind up playing quite a bit better than the week before.
So there’s another lesson for me to chew on: I’m not as young as I used to be, and I may well need to revise my list of essential golf equipment – adding “mechanical massager” in lieu of “driver”.
It’s an oddly satisfying insight in this season of odd Easter stories. In Sunday’s gospel, the resurrected Jesus goes out of his way to emphasize his corporeal nature to the frightened disciples. First, Jesus says:
“Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
And then, this:
“Have you anything here to eat?”
Jesus took some baked fish and ate it in front of them, Luke reports. As if to say, Jesus hungers in the flesh as a way of reaching out to those whose hearts remain troubled.
Something about this manifestation of Jesus’ bodily presence touches my heart today. It’s a soothing balm for my stiff shoulders and aching back – because surely, this is a God who “gets” our pain. This God knows all about the weakness of flesh and bones…but won’t let such weakness get in the way of some really Good News.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.