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Keep Swinging!

February 1st, 2010

A golfing great, I am not.  In fact, I’m not even in the top ten.  I’m not as hopeless at the game as I once was, but I can still see the “hopeless green” from the “pretty-much-hopeless tee box” where I now stand.  Golf is a bitter friend of mine whom I seldom visit, who steals at least thirty dollars every time I do visit, and who sabotages me with false hopes and devastating outcomes that crisscross my emotional landscape along with the little white ball I’m chasing.

When asked how to improve one’s game, golfing great Ben Hogan replied, “Hit the ball closer to the hole.”  Nice.  And that’s pretty much how those whom golf has graced with its mysterious favor treat the rest of us.  I can shoot a free throw.  I can catch a football.  I can run ten miles.  However, there is a hex of some sorts that hovers around the clubhouse and my attempts to outsmart the smallest sporting ball of all.  No amount of money or slamming your four-hundred dollar driver onto the ground after another errant drive can satiate the hunger of the golf monster.

Yet Ben Hogan’s statement haunts me.  “Hit the ball closer to the hole.”  You win this time, Hogan!

At the end of the day, I think I’ve figured out the main problem with my game.  Now, I pretty much have to put all of my golf problems into categories and subsets or else I would become overwhelmed by their quantity.  Most of them aside, though, the chief offense for which golf constantly canes me with its cruelty is that I simply don’t play enough.  Last year, I played golf maybe five times . . . and four of those outings were my own tournaments for charity.

There’s a mystery to golf that parallels a mystery in our spiritual growth.  It’s easy to internalize a similar “sentence” of failure concerning spiritual disciplines.  “I’m horrible at prayer (or insert your discipline of choice) and every time I try, I feel even more horrible at it.”  Thus, we try less and obsess more about the obvious conspiracy that discipline . . . and maybe even God . . . has against us.

All the while, pastors and other “mature” Christians mock us in Hoganesque fashion, “Just pray more.”  Hmmm, that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it, Sherlock?  How can my problem also be my solution to the problem?

Find encouragement from a chronic-slicer . . . both physically and spiritually.  Hogan was right!  The answer to improving one’s game and one’s spiritual life lies out on the course, not sitting on the couch lamenting what happens out on the course.  In other words, we must keep swinging in order to learn how to swing better.  No one has ever brought home a better scorecard without leaving home.

Jesus said it like this, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  (Matthew 7:7 NLT) So as you embark upon today’s challenge of pursuing the little white ball of spiritual discipline, be encouraged to know that as you keep on “swinging,” you’ll keep getting closer to the goal . . . or the the hole.

Unlike golf, God actually wants you to succeed . . . and He’s already covered your green fees . . . spiritually, of course.


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