December 17, 1991
The fourteenth hole at Hillside Golf Club has a creek meandering through, first in front of an elevated tee box, then along the right side and back across the fairway just before the green. For some reason, my golf balls always think they are ducks when we play the fourteenth hole.
That fourteenth hole confirms the golf pros who tell me that this is a game of concentration. Obviously one has to ignore the water and concentrate on where the golf ball should go, but after a few direct hits into the drink, it is tough to put that hazard out of your mind, even while taking aim at something a little less liquid. Personally, the harder I try to not think about the water, the more my ball is apt to head straight for it.
The first time we played that hole, my husband laughed with me as my ball sailed into the creek. Then he hit two in a row — both splashing in the same spot — right in front of a mallard duck. After a few more rounds on the back nine, it didn’t take a calculator to figure that our golf ball budget would last longer if we just skipped the fourteenth.
However, avoiding the tough holes will not improve my aim. Nor will wishful thinking do anything for my back swing. Concentrated effort and continual practice are necessary. Even at that, I’ll never be a golf pro.
Sometimes I feel the same about the flaws in my character as I do about my performance at the fourteenth hole. If certain situations could be avoided, maybe no one would notice those shortcomings, but life is not like that. Even on the golf course, you wind up running over other people to get around the parts you don’t like. So I must find another solution.
In golf, the best answer is hours at the driving range, yet for players like me, there is no guarantee that the next time I swing my driver, the ball will go where I want it to. Thank God, His remedy is a little different for character flaws.
Instead of trying to change myself, God promises to get me to my goal if I will only just LOOK and keep on LOOKING at the target. Since flawless character is the goal, of course that target is Jesus Christ. He is the “bull’s eye,” the perfect mark, the total hope and aspiration of anyone trying to live to please God.
Obviously, we must rely on God’s power to become like Him. Our part includes complete commitment, refusing to be like we once were yet allowing Him to renew our minds and change our lives (Romans 12:1,2). Key to change is total honesty before Him, not hiding our sin or pretending to be what we are not. (That would be like trying to hide a hook or slice — what a joke!)
And here is where the lesson of the fourteenth hole comes in: we must concentrate on the target... because He promises that when we do, we will be “transformed into the same image from glory to glory... by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
That does not mean it is easy. Just try thinking about God for 60 seconds without losing concentration. Distractions easily draw away our attention and our aim, and we find ourselves hitting something far less than the perfect target of Christlikeness. If it were not for His grace, I’m sure none would ever come even remotely close.
Someone once told me it was better to aim at the stars and hit the woodpile, than to aim at the woodpile and hit your foot. It doesn’t work in golf. Aiming at the pin and hitting the water is not any better than aiming at the water and hitting the water. But aim is important in ironing out those flaws. When Jesus is the target, whatever I hit is an improvement over how I would live without Him.