I seldom play golf anymore. Occasionally, if I’m with a pastor who loves the game, I’ll go to the course and we’ll play. Playing golf with me will test a person’s patience. You can learn a lot about a man playing golf with him.
To some people golf is a game. Those are the ones who do okay playing with me. For the rest, it’s a sport. I drive those people crazy. They’re the ones whose adrenalin production triples the second their hand touches a golf bag. They hurriedly tee up their ball, violently drive it down the fairway, jump into the cart as fast as they can and drive at breakneck speed to get to the ball so they can slam it again. They act as if they’re paying to play by the second. Meanwhile, I’m off in the rough looking for my ball that sliced like a boomerang.
When I first played golf, it drove me crazy. I tried so hard to hit it straight and to hit it far, but couldn’t do either. Compared to most of the guys I played with, I felt like a little girl playing with her daddy’s power tools. I just couldn’t do it well, “Keep your head down,” well meaning golf partners told me dozens of times. But the only way I could have kept my head down was to set a five gallon bucket on my shoulders. I just couldn’t do it.
In those early days I became more and more frustrated. I thought I had to do well. Trying harder to perfect my game only added to the frustration and made matters worse. One day I actually experienced the feelings I’ve seen expressed by golfers in comedies on TV programs.
After knocking my third ball straight into the water in front of me – the water everybody else had cleared in one shot – the thought crossed my mind that I should throw the !$#! golf bag and all the clubs into the water and forget the whole thing. (I also came to understand at that moment why pastor’s usually play golf only with each other.) But I didn’t. Instead, a few moments later, something miraculous took place.
I was on the back nine, hole 11, I think. I was waiting for the other guys to hit when I looked around. For the first time, I really noticed that the surrounding area at that hole was beautiful. The grounds were perfectly groomed, the woods around us were brilliant with fall colors. The water hazard down the fairway looked like a serene, peaceful pond where a person would want to build a home and sit on the front porch just looking around for hours.
Suddenly something inside me changed. Hitting my ball straight and long didn’t matter anymore. I stopped caring about my score. I just began to enjoy being outside in this beauty. I began to enjoy the company of my friends. I finished the game experiencing a kind of pleasure I hadn’t known since I was a child. I saw rabbits in the bushes, squirrels in the trees – I even saw a hawk swoop down and pick up a chipmunk and fly back up toward a nest with him in the grip of his powerful claws.
From that day until now, I don’t care about my score when I play golf. I think I shoot around 115, but I don’t count my bad shots. And I don’t care. The score card doesn’t matter anymore. Now I play just to enjoy my friends and nature and the game.
I think that’s how we ought to live the Christian life, don’t you? For years I focused on my swing. I lived with the demand to “do it right,” like a “good Christian” ought to do. My performance was all that really mattered. I read books and attended seminars on how to be a better Christian. I kept meticulous watch on myself, scoring my actions at every moment. It was a frustrating experience, to say the least. I never felt that I’d be able to reach the level of performance that I saw in those to whom I compared myself.
Then one day something wonderful happened. My eyes were opened to grace for the Christian. I came to see that God wasn’t keeping score on me anymore and that, He has in fact, torn up the score card. What a liberating truth to understand and believe!
There is no score card in the Christian life! Do you understand that? Do you believe it? Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, God has stopped keeping score on you. Do you want to enjoy life to the fullest? Then stop keeping score on yourself! Your Father accepts you just the way you are.
So, relax. Enjoy what’s around you. Take in the scenery. Revel in the relationships you have. Go easy on yourself. You may never qualify for the Masters in life. That’s okay. Just enjoy the game. That’s what your Father wants most for you.