Saturday, July 16, 2016


I don't play golf or even really follow golf. My experience with golf is limited to the course at the Family Fun Center or a stint at a video game console. Nobody would mistake me for a good player. Or an average player.

I did not intentionally turn on the tv to watch the last few holes of the Open tournament. It's just what was on while I worked on something else. I tuned in just in time to watch one of the champions miss what would normally be "an easy shot." And then I watched one of his opponents knock a ball right into an ugly looking sand trap. I saw balls go into the rough, into the bushes, into other sandtraps, and roll teasingly away from the hole the player was aiming for.

And I thought, "that's exactly what would happen to me!" As one who has stretched a par 4 hole into 7 or 8 stokes at the moving drawbridge, I am familiar with bad shots. And if I was in the Open, I'm sure I could hear the commentator intone with his soft British accent, "Looks like another bad shot for Tim. He really is a poor player."

But they don't say stuff like that about the pros. Why is that? How come the highly talented golfer who makes a bad shot still get to be called "highly talented?" Why don't people boo the pro bowler who fails to knock all the pins down?  Ever think about batting averages? .300 or .400 is respectable, but it still means the player missed 6 or 7 times!

The answer is simple: it's not the bad shot that defines the player, but the next shot.

I saw this played out on the Open.  The player had knocked the ball in the sand trap. He walked over, calculated his stroke, then hit the ball onto the green near the hole! And the crowd goes wild! If we're watching highlights that evening, the sports anchor will play that amazing, out-of-the-sand-trap shot and heap accolades upon the skilled golfer. The bowler picks up the spare and the batter gets the hit.

Yes, a hole-in-one is a great accomplishment. But if all a player ever did was get holes-in-one, would golf be so interesting to watch? Probably not. The real measure of a golfer's skill isn't so much their ability to put the ball in the cup, but in their ability to get out of a bad situation.

And how many times have I let my own bad situations, my own "bad shots" define me? I can't tell you how many "sand traps" I've been in, some from circumstance, a lot from bad decisions, but all accompanied by the soft thud, the groan of the crowd, and the commentator whispering, "What a pity, this is tough one for Tim." And I'm sure I'm not alone.

So what sets us apart? It's in what we do to take the next shot. We remember that God is with us, not just in the good times, but in the bad. Especially in the bad. The enemy will mock and belittle us with that soft whisper that we're no good, look where we've landed, we really are bad at being a spouse, a parent, an employee, clean and sober, or (fill in the blank). But God says, "This isn't permanent. Take the next shot."

Yeah, I know, it's more complex than that. It may take a series of good shots to overcome one bad shot. But as a wise man once observed, "Success is getting up one more time than you fall down." But don't let the bad shots define you. Take the next shot. Rejoice in the victory.

And the crowd goes wild!