By Rev. J. Pete Hyde
The sunny March morning came in with a little breeze as a reminder that it was still spring, and summer had not yet turned on its oven-like heat. The bay was mirror-like as far as the eye could see as they crossed the bridge to an early tee time. The course did not seem to be crowded. After checking in at the pro shop, they made their way to the first tee. After a few stretches to loosen up and to look like he knew what he was doing, he retrieved a ball and tee from his pocket. He teed the ball at just the right height. He took a practice swing, looked down the manicured fairway, and stepped up to the ball. He paused for a moment of concentration. The club whooshed through the ball with the distinctive thunk of the metal driver making contact with it. The ball launched into a perfectly straight arc down the fairway with no less beauty than if it had been hit by Phil Mickelson himself. “That’s the way to start!!” He said out loud. “You can’t par them all, if you don’t par the first one.”
The next shot would be a simple nine iron to the green. He stepped up to the ball, paused for a moment of concentration, and with full confidence swung the iron. The sound that followed was not the crisp click of the iron hitting the ball, but kind of a thud. As he looked up too soon to see where the ball was going, the club dug an eight-inch long piece of turf behind where the ball was sitting. In fact, he was not sure the club even made contact with the ball. Disgusted with himself, he wanted to slam the club to the ground, but restrained himself in a fit of self-control. The next shot he hit long and it almost rolled through the green. He wrote three putts and a double bogey on the scorecard. As he settled into the cart for the ride to the second hole, trying to remain positive, he said “Well, that got the double bogey out of the way, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” His partner just chuckled.
The rest of the round was up and down, a good hole followed by a bad one. Good shots built up his confidence, but stupid mistakes followed that set the game as well as his attitude back. He had a good run of five pars in a row on the back nine and finished number 18 with a double bogey. “Why do I play this game?” he asked himself. “So I can have stuff to write about!” he joked.
Our Christian journey and our lives in general are much like this golf game. The successes (good shots) help build our confidence and confirm that we are capable of the good ones. But just as soon as we get too confident, looking up from the task before it is completely finished, contact is not made and we either come up short or go in the wrong direction. On the golf course, the smooth, rhythmic swing is the key. When we try too hard to get the ball to do what we want it to, or when we think we can hit the shot without preparing because it is too easy, or we when try to make the ball go further than we are capable of, that’s when we get into trouble.
The shots in life are no different. We’ve all had our good ones and our bad ones. Usually in retrospect, we see what we did on the bad ones and shake our heads, because we knew better. With practice, patience, diligence, and perseverance, the good shots become more frequent and the flubs become less numerous. Take some time to examine your game. Spend some time with the instruction book. Consult with the Master. Put the instructions into practice with patience, diligence and perseverance. You may not ever par them all, but you’ll improve as you go along your journey. Remember the words of the instruction book: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I wonder if that applies to nine irons?