Clubhouse Christian

by | May 11, 2014 | Persistence, Purpose

Did you know there are people out there who call themselves golf historians? It’s amazing. They can talk circles around you or me when it comes to golf. If you bump into a golf historian or find yourself golfing with one for a round, you may discover fascinating things about this game. You may also feel like smacking the historian with a putter.

I golfed with a man recently who knew absolutely everything there was to know about golf. I was amazed and duly impressed. He knew obscure matters of trivia.

“Did you know that Sandra Day O’Connor is the only U.S. Supreme Court justice to have scored a hole-in-one?” He asked.

I didn’t know this.

He knew precisely where to stand when someone else was putting out or teeing off.

He knew to bring a towel to the green to clean his properly marked ball.

The trouble was he couldn’t golf worth a hill of beans. His putts were short and crooked. So were his drives. Except when he missed the ball altogether.

Though his etiquette did not allow him to get upset with himself, he really should have. If I golfed like that consistently I would have the common decency to throw my clubs in the creek and quit the game. But not him. Sure, he would frown after sinking that all important sixth putt, he would shake his head after shanking his fourth approach shot, but there was little emotion. He would rather talk about those who play the game well than do so himself.

You’ve met him too, I’m sure. He’s the guy who looks great in the clubhouse. He’s the armchair golfer. Oh, he does well at computer golf. Hook him up to a mouse and he can hold his own. Hand him a joystick and he can beat you hands-down. But take him onto the golf course where it matters and he’s lost. Hand him a club and stand back.

When I was a little younger and my forehead wasn’t so high, I knew much about God. If they’d have held a tournament for Bible trivia games I’d have won the grand slam. I could quote Scripture. Recite all four stanzas of a hundred hymns. But there was one small problem. I didn’t know the One I was singing about. Though I was privileged to grow up in a home where my parents taught and lived the Bible, it hadn’t taken hold of me.

We used to have “sword drills” in Sunday School. We held a Bible over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. When the teacher yelled out a Bible verse, we would frantically flip the pages until some winner found it. Guess who usually won? That’s right. I was proud of how many verses I could find about the sin of pride. I looked down on those who couldn’t locate verses about the Pharisees.

One day I encountered a story in the Bible that confused me. It was of Mary and Martha, two friends of the Master. I don’t think either of them golfed-the Greek doesn’t even hint at it-but Martha was a generous soul, so it’s possible. One day she invited Jesus and His disciples into her home for a meal. Now, I’ve fed six teenagers at a time. Imagine feeding 13 grown men. But to make matters worse, Martha’s sister, Mary, didn’t even help out with the roast. As Martha sliced potatoes, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning. Finally, Martha had had enough.

“Lord,” she complained, “doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Though John 11:5 tells us that Jesus loved Martha, He scolded her: “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it” (Luke 10:38-42).

And it hit me like someone yelled “Fore!” Like me, Martha was consumed by the temporary, while Mary was hungry and thirsty for the eternal. Like me, Martha was missing the essential ingredient to a living and vibrant faith: the desire to sit at Jesus’ feet.

I had spent years living exactly like the golf historian, talking about the Master without really knowing Him. Jesus’ words to the Pharisees were directed to me: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away” (Matthew 15:8).

When our first child was born, I was hit hard once again. As I looked into the eyes of my curly-haired son, I realized that in no time he would see me for what I was: a hardened hypocrite. I realized I’d been close to the church but far from God. I knew I’d been reading the Bible for information, not for formation. I knelt by my bed that night and prayed a simple prayer: “God, make me real. I want my precious little boy to hunger and thirst after righteousness. And if he won’t learn to from me, he’s got two strikes against him already.”

I trust you too have prayed that prayer.

For all of us will wander restlessly searching for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment until we discover that our thirst can only be slaked by knowing the Master.

I’d rather play golf than talk about it, wouldn’t you?

I’d rather sink a hole in one than know what the odds are that it will happen.

Of far greater importance, I want to know Christ, to walk in His presence, to learn from him. In knowing the Master I have come to the stunning realization that He knows us and loves us too.

Phil Callaway, Golfing with the Master. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006, p. 92-96.


Clubhouse Christian