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The Greatest Mulligan Ever Played

November 21st, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 2 (NLT)

 2 Tainted wealth has no lasting value,
      but right living can save your life.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

I know something about tainted things, especially concerning the game of golf.  Sidebar: Have you noticed that almost all of my golf stories have to do with me learning a lesson the hard way?  Interesting.

The day was sublime and a few friends and I were knocking around the little white ball out at Pine Creek Golf Course in Mt. Juliet.  After some standard horrific play on the front nine as is expected of me, we made the turn to play the back nine.  Hole number eleven is a par three that usually gives me fits.  I don’t know what it is, but I rarely have a good shot on this particular hole.  I vowed in my heart that today would be different . . . oh brother.

The pin on number eleven is roughly two-hundred yards from the tee box.  I reached for the appropriate club, realizing that they are still manually operated.  Lining up on the flag, I positioned my body and adjusted my grip, visualizing in my head a brilliant shot just a few feet from the flag.  Using the breathing techniques that I learned with my wife at our child-birthing classes, I ascended to a new level of athletic consciousness.  It was much like the scenes in the movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played” where the British golfing legend lines up on the ball and all of the distractions of the gallery magically fade away from his view, leaving only him and the green alone to do business.  

Euphorically prepared for the shot of my life, I entered my backswing in perfect balance and swung the club with all the athleticism I could muster.  Clank!  Like a scene from Happy Gilmore, I hit the ball off of the toe of the club and it went flying dead right deep into the woods . . . never to return again.

Anger seethed from my innermost being like a pot of boiling water on the stove of my subconsciousness. Realizing that my surprise over the bad shot was much more rare than the shot itself, I composed myself and called out the following word for my golfing buddies to hear: “mulligan.”  In golfing terms, a mulligan is an unofficial do-over . . . very unofficial since it’s not really allowed by the rules.  It’s the chance to completely ignore a bad shot on the scorecard.  It’s acting as if said terrible shot never happened.  And since I hadn’t taken a mulligan on the back nine yet, I decided that this hole would be as good as any.

Since there was no chance of finding my first ball deep within the recesses of the forested alternate dimension where I hit it, I grabbed my second ball and prepared for a half-hearted re-do.  This time, I worried much less about the setup.  I just teed up, grabbed my club, and gave it the old swingaroo!  Ping! As if an angelic visitor took hold of the ball, my shot looked like a picture of utter golfing perfection. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of my embarrassing golf career, the ball soared toward the flag as if the two were made to be together.  Glancing back at my buddies, I think I saw a tear or two being brushed away in macho fashion.

The ball landed about twenty feet from the hole . . . on the green, mind you!  Not impressive for normal golfers, but in my life, if this were to happen three times, I’d qualify for sainthood!  Thus, I approached the green with the strange sensation of only needing a putter from my bag instead of the four clubs I usually have to grab that are necessary to painfully get me on the green.  I lined up on the ball, skipped the alternate state of consciousness this time, and gave it my best putting stroke.

Again, as if the heavens had aligned in the midst of a solar eclipse while Haley’s Comet flew by and eggs all around the world were standing on their ends, the little white ball of blessing took a path that strangely mimicked the path to the hole.  The next thing I knew, I had sunk a twenty foot putt in two strokes.  That’s right . . . feathers fell from the sky all around me . . . I had birdied the hole!

But wait . . . I suddenly felt that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and I realized that it was caused by more than just the hotdog I had grabbed at the concession stand when we made the turn.  That feeling was the stinging sensation of a tainted hole.  Why?  Because my two-shot miracle was really a four-shot miracle if you took away the mulligan . . . which if I were to play fairly, had to be counted.  Thus, my birdie was really just a bogie and my amazing shots were subpar . . . well, in this case they were more than par . . . but you get the point.

Our culture is so obsessed with success and money that many people have “mulliganed” their value systems in order achieve their goals.  Cut a corner here.  Fudge a number there.  Do anything that’s necessary to earn a buck and get ahead.  The problem is that, as the passage states, “tainted wealth has no lasting value . . .”  Ouch!  Just take a look at how many millionaire corporate tycoons are being accused of embezzlement and fraud.  Sure, their bank accounts look impressive, but all that they’ve achieved is “tainted” because of the moral and ethical mulligans they took to get there.  No one cares how rich you are when you’re in prison.

This doesn’t just have to be about money, either.  Our grades.  Our job performance.  Our honesty in relationships.  Every area of life requires us to make decisions about our honesty.  At the end of this round of life, our score should add up to be accurate or else the whole game is tainted.  The flip side is that “right living can save your life.”

So on that fateful hole, I sucked it up and marked my card with the “4” instead of the “2”.  Right living might save your life, but it has yet to improve my golf swing . . . spiritually, of course.



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