Well, it’s happened again. I’m vexed.
I picked up the Bible last Friday and did some reading; a girl on my middle school basketball team had done her devotion earlier that day, and I felt that what she said had direct relevance to me and my general attitude and approach to life. She had talked about how nervous she was, even scared at times, to play in games because she lacked confidence and didn’t want to make mistakes that would hurt the team. (Very sweet, but anyone who has watched middle school girls’ basketball knows that mistakes are a foregone conclusion. It is a game of errors at this level; the team that makes the least usually wins). She said it gave her confidence to remember this verse: The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. (Psalm 28:7). It reminded me that I had recently resolved to do better with my general outlook and trust in Him as well. (See He is Risen, April 7). I really felt that I should try to maintain a more favorable view of life and of those around me; if I let Him, He’ll take care of the important things for me and I can go through life as I did in the carefree days of my youth. (Minus the enhancements).
Some of you might recall that I’m entered in the Tucson City Amateur Golf Tournament; this seemed the perfect opportunity to test the new faith. It didn’t take long; during Saturday’s first round, on the second hole, I stood on the tee and resolved to hit a nice drive, being mindful to keep the ball well left of the fence that ran the entire length of the hole on the right. At the last second, the evil troll that resides in my brain (and whose throne is the tumor that likely grows around my thalamus) implored me to swing extra hard. I obliged and for good measure lifted my head as I swung to better see the results of my Herculean effort. Tumor Troll danced with glee as every appendage scattered like cockroaches when the light came on and my ball bounced feebly across the cart path to the left and under a bush. I declared an unplayable lie (golf is so stupid that way) and went back to the tee, now hitting my third shot. I promptly launched a massive drive over the fence on the right and out-of-bounds. Still on the tee, now hitting five. I made some adjustments (including shooing the boys back into the classroom, so to speak) and then made a nice swing straight down the middle. I took a nine on that hole, a par five, and the old me would’ve imploded then and there. My brother, who had graciously agreed to caddie for me, was a great help. Though a heathen dog, he reminded me in his own way (“it’s early…you can fix it.”) what I had resolved to do: let God take the trouble and with His help, I’d do better.
The rest of the round actually went very well, and save for fading a bit at the end (I walked the whole way and got tired and hungry – I’m old), I played great; I was tied for second after the first round.
I won’t bore you with the details of Sunday’s second round, but suffice it to say that any resolution or epiphany with respect to a new, refreshing and positive outlook on life was abandoned quickly and in shameful fashion. As I muddled through my round, which seemed like a five-hour seizure, I became increasingly and outwardly agitated. My ball acted as if it were a schizophrenic politician (alternately leaving the club face Karl-Marx-was-a-Great-Putter left or kill-them-before-they-cross far right); as a result, I walked vaguely towards each green like a bottle-wielding, drunken sailor meandering back and forth to a Sumatran port after a weekend pass. Golf is a sport where at some point you have to take responsibility for stinking it up like boiling broccoli forgotten on the stove; it was my own fault, and nothing annoys me more than having no alternate explanation or someone else to blame.
Everything and everyone annoyed me beyond all common sense. To his credit, my brother held his tongue like a good caddie should. In his place, I would have remarked that Dyson’s latest and greatest could not have sucked so well; everyone would have known how frustrating it was to be the caddie for the worst golfer in modern history. The other golfers said appropriately trite things like “shake it off; new start on this hole”, or “ooh, tough break there.” I silently wondered if they’d say the same thing if I hooked their sac with an upward swing of my four iron and sent their shriveled boys rolling off the green.
One guy in my group became the sole object of my scorn and hatred. He was old, in his mid to late sixties; it bothered me immediately that he should be grouped with someone of my athletic stature. (Hush up). He was so sloooow; no one will ever accuse me of being fast, even the rare talking snail, but when it comes to golf I don’t mess around. I don’t take practice swings; each one could cause a pulled muscle and become my last. I don’t spend a long time over my putts; inevitably an awesome drum beat or some tragic and embarrassing moment in my life enters my mind if I take too long and I lose focus. This guy would look at his putt from behind the ball, then walk to one side, examining the contour of the green and the bend of the grass, then move like a nursing home tenant with a trouser-full to the opposite side of the hole and look again. Listening to him emerge from a crouch was like sitting on a porch under a bamboo chime on a windy day; I found myself conjuring up long since forgotten awesome drum beats whenever he stood. Every vantage point should have told him the same thing: he couldn’t make a long putt if he were sitting on the can.
By the end, I had posted a score which is none of your business and for which I have no memory having attained. Amazingly, though I fell to fifth place in the standings, I am still in the running. Tomorrow I will again endeavor to persevere, though I can see now that like pornography, gambling and cockfighting, golf is Satan’s game, the other players his demons and the course his playground. I will pray before I play that God will protect me, forgive me, and greet me on the other side when I’m done. And I will pray thanks to Him when He inevitably does.