God on the Golf Course

Every six months or so, I give my wife a vacation. She is a stay at home mother of our six children, all under the ages of 8. She stays very busy and maintains a photography business on the side. However, even super-woman needs a vacation every now and then. I give her a choice, she can go and we can stay at home or we can leave and she can stay at home. Her choice this fall, to stay at home. So, off we went to Ohio, where my mother lives and right outside the area where I grew up.

My mother is wonderful and gracious. Prior to my trip, she told me to be sure to bring my golf clubs and she would watch the kids and I could play golf. Awesome, I was getting a bit of a vacation also. I played a lot of golf. I played 9 holes on the day we got there, 54 holes the next day, 36 the next day, and 18 the final day. That’s right, it was a grand total of 108 holes in four days. It was awesome. During these rounds, I had an opportunity to play the course that I grew up on, its called Cliffside golf course in Huber Heights, Ohio. I was excited to play it as I had not played it in 25 years.

As I pulled onto the road of the Golf course. It was like going back in time. The place hadn’t changed in 25 years. The clubhouse was still this terrible lime green color and had the smell musty smell of 25 years ago. Twenty-five years ago they had a stand-up poster of the three stooges in the corner where they were holding golf clubs. It was still there. I was dumbfounded.

As I began to play, all of the holes were exactly the same. With the exception that the back nine in years past is now the front nine; otherwise, it was like going back in time. It was a nice round down memory lane and then God showed up. Let me explain a little about my background.

You see, I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and have been clean for 10 years. Many of the issues that I treated with alcohol and drugs stemmed from a bad relationship with my father. I never felt “good enough” and the only thing that made me feel loved by my father was achievement. Athletic achievement made me feel like my father loved me. When I didn’t “make par” I would feel like Dad was rejecting me. Well, many of the issues that I had with my dad developed on this particular golf course. However, it had been 25 years since it happened and Dad has been dead for almost ten. (He died of lung cancer) As I was playing this course, God showed up and revealed to me that many issues with Dad were developed on th is course. It was on the number 5 that Dad promised me that he would stop smoking. He broke that promise and eventually died. It was on the number 10, that he made me feel very inadequate by chastising me for making a double bogey. I had no idea that all of these issues still lingered till God showed up on the course and began revealing things to me that I had forgotten about. It was becoming more than a leisurely round on the lynx.

As I was approaching the 17th tee, I noticed that the hole that ran behind it was my Dad’s favorite hole. It was a long par 5 where the first 160 yards are a water hazard. I was the only one on the golf course so I decided to leave the tee box and go down to this fairway and just sit for a minute. As I got there, I remember a really nice time when Dad and I had both birdied the hole and it really brought us together. As I recalled this forgotten memory, God told me that this was the way that He always see me regardless of my failures or my success. It was a healing moment for me. I no longer needed to work in order to please God the way that I had to do with Dad. I got a little emotional. Then, I headed back to the 17th tee to finish the round. When I got back to the tee box, I noticed a golf ball on the tee. (I hadn’t noticed it before) I told God, “Alright, If I’ve received something from you let this ball be a Titleist Pro-V1. These are expensive balls and generally all that I play with because of my prima dona golfer status. So, I pick up the ball, and it’s a Pro V-1. It was a number one, and someone had drawn a symbol of the trinity on it. (Three circles joining each other in a triangle) That ball continues to serve me as a constant reminder that God loves me not matter what I succed at and no matter what I fail at. I just went out to play some golf, but God had other ideas.

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Grace and Golf

Many of you who know me know how much I love golf. Many of you who know me also know that last week I had the best nine holes of my life scoring six straight pars and finishing with a 41 on the front nine, and a 47 on the back nine for a total of 88. A great round for me. Many of you also know that I had a tremendous encounter and healing with God on the seventeenth hole. It was an amazing time. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty confident about my game. So, with an unexpected opportunity to play this week, I was hoping for another great round. Much to my surprise, I had the worst round of my life. Ridiculously high score, somewhere in the 100’s. With this in my mind as I went to prayer with God, this is the word that He spoke with me and the lesson learned from the worst round of my life.

Be careful with sports and exercise, it doesn’t fulfill you. Be careful with diet, it doesn’t fulfill you (either doing good on one or bad on one). Be careful with study and learning, they don’t fulfill you. In short, be careful with your successes, they speak nothing of your self-worth and value. Additionally, be careful with you failures, they speak nothing of your self-worth and value. Fulfillment and acceptance come only from the love of God. God’s love for me and his desire for relationship with me is dependent upon neither my success nor my failures. If I am righteous, this love for me remains unchanged. If I sin, His love for me stays constant. Hence, my fulfillment and acceptance are secure whether I succeed or fail. We don’t achieve to receive fulfillment. We are fulfilled, so we are free to achieve.

I’m grateful and glad that I played that terrible round of golf. It helps root our my own sense of pride. I felt so unworthy and rejected by this terrible game of golf. I felt like a complete failure. It really shook me to my core. Then, I realized that golf wasn’t the issue, but something inside of me was the issue. As I prayed and asked God to reveal to me what He wanted me to learn about this experience, Rina came into the kitchen and wanted to share something with me. This is what she read: “It is of great importance to guard against vexation on account of our faults; it springs from a secret root of pride, and a love of our own excellence; we are hurt at feeling what we are.” (1) It never occurred to me that I had a “secret root of pride.” I just never knew it was there until I had a great round of golf and then a terrible round of golf. Through this circumstance, He has revealed more of me that needs more of Him. There were some lessons for me to learn in this.

We mustn’t despair when we make mistakes. We are imperfect creatures moving, in a process of sanctification, into perfection. He has created a milieu of grace for us to exist inside, one in which we can practice righteousness without fear of condemnation or judgment. Despair and depression over our own faults and shortcomings, is a deep form of pride and a false humility. Bill Johnson writes, “In my own pursuit of God, I often became preoccupied with ME! It was easy to think that being constantly aware of my faults and weakness was humility. It’s not!…By being sold on my own unrighteousness, the enemy has disengaged me from effective service…It may sound strange, but I don’t examine my motives anymore. That’s not my job. I work hard to obey God in everything that I am and do. If I am out to lunch on a matter, it is His job to point that out to me. After many years of trying to do what only He could do, I discovered I was not the Holy Spirit. I cannot convict and deliver myself of sin. Does that mean that I never deal with impure motives? No. He has shown Himself to be very eager to point out my constant need for repentance and change. But He’s the One with the spotlight, and He alone can give the grace to change.” (2)

The soul that is rooted and grounded in love will recognize that failure, shortcomings, and faults are only indicators of one simple thing. A further need for dependency upon Him and His Grace. They do not define who we are, and they are not indicators of any future events. They simply indicate aspects of the fallen nature that have built a resistance to the Holy Spirit. These, He will root out. Humility is not despairing over our faults, but recognized the need to turn more to God than to ourselves. Our failures and success should turn us both likewise, unto God, not to ourselves.

Endnotes

1. Guyon, Madame, A Short and Very Easy Method of prayer; which All can Practice with the Greatest Facility, and arrive in a short time, by its mean, at a high degree of perfection.”

2. Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. 2003, page 147-148.