I don't play golf, but I can totally see why people love it.
All it would take for me would be one true stroke. The perfect connection of body, mind and spirit to club, with the ball flying high, far, and true. Oh the high! How I would forever after be chasing that congruence again.
Looking over a golf course yesterday, I thought how much the walk of faith is like a game of golf.
You have an end goal. A finishing point. A certain destination. And many along the way.
And ohhh, what it takes you to get there. Determination. Focus. Joy in the victories, perseverance in the defeats.
The club has a purposed use, but oh it can be used for so many other things. Hacking up the course, hitting people, thwacking the ground in frustration.
And then there's that ball. So small, so exact. You know what you're meant to do with it so you try, and try, and try again. Practice helps.
Every stroke is another shot at playing the course. And there are so many outcomes.
You miss the ball.
You connect to it and it flies in entirely the wrong direction.
You hit it and, although only off by just a fraction at the tee, over distance you're way off the mark.
Then those bunkers. Man-made. Not like the course, God-given.
And the wide, wide, margins. Woods, undergrowth, valleys, and who knows what lies beyond that? It doesn't matter what it is, it's simply off the course. Hit your ball over there and you might never find it again. Unless you ask. And then a kind spectator, who's watching you and walking with you for the whole round, will lop it back to right where you stand.
And what about the lake? That huge distance that at times you have to get your ball over? What if you fall short?
And, of course, you're not the first one to play the course. So many have gone before you that you're navigating areas that have been completely messed up. You can easily twist your ankle or break your leg if you don't look where you're going. If you don't notice where other players have been before you.
And the other players. You have to leave everyone else's ball alone! Their game is theirs, yours is yours.
And... here the analogy ends.
Because, unlike golf, no matter how many times you mess up - even in a day! - if you ask for your ball back you won't be disqualified. That kind spectator who's been there all along will lob it back to you and say,
"Just keep going! You're doing great! I know how hard the game is, I made it! But without the bunkers! By the way, it doesn't matter how many strokes you need. Everyone's allowed to make mistakes, I redesigned the course that way. Don't give up. I'm right here beside you, cheering you on, pointing out your next shot if you need me."
So you tamp down the divots you wilfully made with your club in your fury and frustration, and accept the grace (for grace is what it is) of another chance.
You could get down on yourself, and beat yourself up for being so crap at the game. Or you could face forward and course correct. You may be in the thicket, but you can still redirect your focus to the end point.
And try again.
If you keep going? Every so often you will hit the ball true. And as you watch it soar through the air in the right direction, your breath catches in your chest as you notice the glory of the sky, the green of the grass, the majesty of the trees, and the gift of the air. All around you.
And you’ll be grateful again.
For the gift of the game.