I'm a golfer. That's what I tell myself at least. I'm not sure if what I actually do on the golf course is considered golfing or more like hacking. I love the game. I love being outside. I love the mental challenge each detail of a golf course presents. I love the smell of cut grass and the sound of a precise putt falling into the hole. I don't like the sand though. Seriously, why sand? Are we at a beach? Dad gave me a choice when I was thirteen to either get golf clubs or a fishing boat. That year some guy named Tiger Woods won the Masters for the first time, and I was hooked. The next five or so years Dad and I spent many days on the course (one of the advantages of living in South East Texas is that you can play year round).
This past Friday for the first time in a while, I got to play golf. It was the first time in about a year that I had even picked up a club, and so I had absolutely no expectations of myself. But a funny thing happened - I played well! Through 6 holes I was only 2 over par and could have easily been even par for the round. That's nearly unheard of in my world. There are some basic elements to a golf shot that I reminded myself to concentrate on. The main one for me is to watch the spot where the ball hits the ground and try to swing the club in such as way to hit that spot. Last Friday, I was doing that . . . through six holes. Every ball I hit was down the middle of the fairway. I avoided all water, and even putted well . . . through six holes. I stayed within the limitations of my game . . . through six holes.
Then came hole seven. Hole seven is not a particulary tough hole, though there is a pond and a tree that guard the green. But if you stay within your game, the hole is manageable. I however, had gotten too confident. I began dreaming of the possibility of an incredible score that I forgot the basics which led to my good round. The dream overtook my reality. The tee shot went wide left, leaving me with a long shot into the green. No problem, just take out my long iron and put it up there I thought. Well, I forgot to watch my spot. The ball sailed left into the tree and plunking straight into the water. Triple bogey (that's not good if you don't know). I neglected to stay within the limitations of my game.
As I walked to the next tee, God began to talk to me about my soul. There are times when my soul is in rhythm with God. God directs and empowers the center of my soul and there is a peace that passes all human understanding deep within me. Dallas Willard points out in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, " Authentic transformation is possible if we are willing to do one thing and that is to arrange our lives around the kind of practices and life Jesus led to be constantly receiving love and power from the Father."
Soak that statement in for a minute. When we arrange our lives around the life of Christ there is a lifespring of love and power that flows from God. When we stay in Christ, and rely not upon our own intellect, people skills, or experience, but rather the grace of God there is a transformation and peace that occurs within our souls.
Often what happens in my life after I live in Christ for a while is that I'll think I've got this life thing figured out. I'm in control. Or I see some spiritual growth happening and I begin to dream of the kind of person God is making me to be. Then the dream overtakes my reality. No need to do these practices, or if I do, it's just to say that I've done them. What usually happens when you try to take control? Life has other plans, and all of a sudden my soul is in crisis again and I'm reminded that I need God every breath I take.
Authentic transformation to the life God intends for you is possible - a life filled with love, joy, peace, faith, and hope. All of it is rooted in Christ and is available for you. What you have to do, and what I have to constantly remind myself to do, is to arrange your life around Christ. It is ok to dream about the person you can become. Just do not let the dream overtake your reality. Stay in your game. Stay in Christ. Let Christ do the work.