Saturday, October 07, 2006

Golf As A Paradigm For Life

At the Glorieta Christian Writers' Conference this past spring, I had the privilege of hearing Phil Callaway speak. Phil is an interesting guy and an inspiring speaker, but the thing that was probably most fascinating about getting to meet him was hearing him tell about his book, With God On The Golf Course. It's a good book, and I can honestly recommend it. I even bought a couple of copies for friends whom I thought would understand both the golf metaphors and the Christian outlook presented.

I saw the book lying on the desk today, and it reminded me of something my golf partner said to me quite a while ago. Now, you need to understand that my weekly golf game with Jerry goes back a number of years, but our friendship goes back several decades. We attended the same church, even taught Sunday school together, many years ago. He's been my attorney ever since I first recognized the need for one, and I've handled his medical problems (at least those in the ear, nose and throat area). But Jerry and I played golf together only sporadically until the time seven years ago when I sat in his office and we cried together before walking to the courthouse to probate the will of my first wife, Cynthia, who died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. At the time, Jerry was in a period of respite from the ongoing battle his wife was fighting against cancer. I guess we recognized the need for mutual support, and so we started our weekly game. It's been therapy for both of us, and it's sort of worked out that when things were going better for me, they got worse for him, or vice-versa. So, we've supported each other.

Back to our game and my thoughts on golf as a paradigm for life. I had hit a particularly bad shot (not unusual), digging up roughly an acre of fairway with my five iron. I reached for the container of sand that had been placed on the cart for such a purpose and filled in the divot. That's when Jerry said, "You can tell a lot about a man by the way he plays golf." I agreed that some folks take it way too seriously, but he said it went much further than that. He went on to explain that, in golf, you are on your own to honestly report your score--cheating is easier here than in probably any sport. So if you're honest when it's easy not to be, maybe that's an indication of your character. But he felt that the ultimate test was filling in your divots. Some folks fill in the divots scrupulously, some do it only when they know somebody is watching, and some people just leave the ragged patch and go on their way. Again, a paradigm for life.

Are you on your best behavior when you're around Christians? Do you smooth over the rough spots of life that you leave only when you know somebody is watching? Or do you comport yourself as a Christian should, even if no one you know is there to see you go out of your way to put things right? Could you even be one of those folks who doesn't care about the feelings of those who come behind you, choosing to go on your merry way without any thought of the damage you leave in your wake? Jesus gave us pretty specific marching orders in this regard. He didn't say, "Fill in your divots." But He did say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

This week, whatever you're doing (even on the golf course), try to fill in your divots. You'll feel better about yourself, and you'll set a good example for others. Blessings, and keep your eye on the ball.

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