I love the game of golf! As a child I watched the televised tournaments religiously on the weekends and admired all time greats like Jack Nicklaus, who was my favorite golfer. When in my first year as a sports reporter, I actually met Nicklaus, it was one of two times in my life that I remember being speechless. I think the Golden Bear figured out I was awestruck because he winked at me as he left the press conference!
While I spent many years covering other golfing greats, I longed to play the game myself on a regular basis. I finally got that opportunity seven years ago when I left full-time employment for full-time ministry, with more flexible hours! At long last, I could hit the course!
However, golf provided challenges I didn’t expect. The first few years of play, I trimmed ten strokes off my average score but I hit a standstill after that, and my game hasn’t budged in two years. Some hackers would quit after long stretches without improvement, but I am trudging on, longing to see average scores in the 80’s rather than the 90’s.
Through all this, I learned life lessons from playing golf because God is the head pro! To explain let’s use “PUTT” as an acronym:
Perseverance: Becoming a good golfer doesn’t happen overnight. Getting better requires perseverance with many trips to the driving range and putting green. Sometimes when our life seems stagnant or a trial won’t disappear, God calls us to persevere as well. Hebrews 10:36 exhorts us: You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. It is human nature to want to quit, but with God’s strength, we can make it through another day.
Undivided Attention: One of the reasons I can’t improve at golf is that it requires concentration. Many times during a round, I am on my phone, emailing, texting or tweeting. My husband remarks, “No wonder you aren’t scoring well! You are not focused!” In the same way, God desires our undivided attention and wants us to center our focus on him. Psalm 86:11: Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Too Much Club: One of the toughest things to do in golf is to choose the right club for the shot you have. You have to take everything into consideration: the wind, the lie and pin placement. Often times, amateur golfers over-swing in an effort to “help” the ball to the green. In life, we try to “help” God don’t we? Whether it’s telling the Lord how to handle a situation for us or believing our way is better, we need to relinquish our control. We can pray Psalm 25:4,5: Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Take your time. A hurried shot is a bad shot. Because I’m a female golfer, I like to play fast so the male golfers behind us can’t blame me for holding them up. I’m a terrible putter because I don’t always take the time to line up my putts. In our spiritual life, we have a tendency to hurry up decisions without waiting on God for his answer. We hurry through our quiet time, and speed through prayers. Isaiah 40:31 says, Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. Racing through life will just wear us out and we may end up making quick decisions God never intended for us to make.
While I may not ever accomplish my golfing goals, if I apply some of the spiritual lessons I learn from the game to my life, I know I can’t lose!