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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lessons From Golf

I took up the game of golf at a relatively advanced age. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I started playing while in my 20s, but then took a 12 year sabbatical from it. I then re-picked up the game at the age of 40 or so.

If you've ever played the game, and done so at a, for lack of a better word, skill level like mine, you know you're not doing it for the ego boost. It's a very humbling game. When you're a hack like I am, you may have 100-110 strokes in an 18 hole round. Out of those shots, maybe 5 of them were ones which either went where you actually intended them to go, or better yet...were even better than you had intended.

There have been times I was tempted to chuck the clubs, the bag and even my shoes into a water hazard and drive my silent golf cart back to the clubhouse, never to be seen on a golf course again. But the thing is...I really love the game. I stink at it, but I love it.

Golf courses, by their
nature, are beautiful. The well-manicured grass, the trees, the lakes (plop goes my ball), and even the ocean next to some golf courses. On many courses, you even encounter wildlife. Unfortunately for me, I often hit my ball in areas with signs warning of rattlesnakes. Not exactly the wildlife with which I'm wanting to mingle.

The life lesson for me is that while golf is humbling and even very frustrating at times, there are many rewards along the way. It might be a beautiful cloudless sky, birds chirping, great conversation and quality time with friends, making new friends, and even the occasional golf-related success.

Life can get ugly
at times. It can be very frustrating, and even overwhelming. But even in the worst of days, there are redeeming qualities. A man I am coming to know through our association with the Man Cave has an adult son who is dying from cancer. Every time we talk, I ask him how he and his family are doing. He usually responds with, "we're hanging in there." His son may literally slip into eternity at any minute. But rather than focus on the life being lost, they're focusing on the life lived. They are anguishing over the pending devastation of losing a child, but they continue to live life. These people have every legitimate reason to take a time out from relationships and obligations, but instead...they drive on. Rather than pack it in and head for the parking lot, they pick their stuff up and move on to the next hole.

I love this picture. I took it as I was about to tee off. I was enjoying a beautiful day with a dear friend and mentor in my life. I don't remember a single detail of how I played. That usually means I was terrible. What I remember is moments like the one captured in this picture. The rolling grass, the tree lined fairways, the snow-capped mountains in the background. Even the water hazards. (plop, there goes another one.) It's simply majestic.

Sometimes we need to stop focusing on the difficulties, and focus on the beauty and miracle of life. And of course, focusing on the Giver of life. Putting life in perspective gives us a realistic and manageable view of our circumstances. If we focus on how terrible we're "playing", we may miss out on so many other subtleties which make our time special and worth our attention.

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