Of green miles and muddy golf balls

By David WilliamsBy David Williams

I only play golf on days that end with a “Y.”

I also love to compete, and since running over, through, or around linebacker is no longer an option, I choose to strike a little ball instead.

I usually meet up with a group of my friends, who all share a common goal to bat each other into retirement.

Besides the competition and camaraderie, I enjoy the constant lessons learned within the game. I like to see how different players respond to obstacles, adversities, and even success. Being observant will tell you something about your peers, and most importantly, tell you about yourself.

Since the River Trace course closed, many of my friends have joined Wills Creek.

I am an official member of the HGA, also known as the Homeboy Golf Association. Our rules are written either in sand or on a slow-moving stream.

The rules are rarely the same, and for those who know real golf rules, playing with our crew can be frustrating.

Besides golf clubs, each player has a foot wedge that comes in handy for those moments when your ball ends up behind a tree or in a ditch.

Before you judge us, recall that I warned you it was the HGA. Although the rules may be suspect, the fun is real!

My wife is of the opinion that I play too much golf. She may be correct, but I justify my time on the links by telling her I am a golf minister.

Between shots, we talk about life. We are golfers, but we are also dads, husbands and men.

We experience all the joys and heartaches that come along with those titles. It is not uncommon for us to discuss these issues between shots. Perhaps someone has been where someone is going. Wisdom and foolishness alike are shared from one generation to the next.

The scripture states, “I chose the old because they know the way and I chose the young because they are strong.”

That 18-hole course is our personal Green Mile, and what happens on the mile, stays on the mile, with the exception of this article. I don’t want to get kicked off tour. Besides working on his game, everyone is dealing with what life is currently throwing at him. For some of us, it is health problems while for others it is cussing or smoking.

Often during the course of a round of golf, for two strokes gain you can lose three. Moments like that will make a smoker want to smoke and a cusser want to cuss.

But I never judge, and here is reason why:

I was teeing off on the par-four No. 7 hole the other day. It recently had rained, and when I arrived at the location of my ball, it was partially covered with mud.

As a rule you aren’t supposed to touch your ball with your hand until you are on the putting surface, but again, this is the HGA.

I knelt down and picked my ball up to clean it off. I didn’t have a towel and I didn’t want to wipe the mud onto my pants, so tried to wipe it on the grass. Instead of coming clean it gathered more mud.

It was at that moment a small voice said, “Do you see that?”

I looked more closely at the dirty golf ball.

“You are like the ball,” said the voice. “You cannot clean dirt with dirt. It takes Me. It takes having a relationship with Me to clean a man up.”

I knew this to be true, of course, as did my friends. Many of them said as much during our various conversations.

Still, I was thankful for the reminder. I appreciate interrupted moments like that one.

As we approached the green, Todd Douthard spoke those same words to me. It was his goal to stop smoking on his birthday, but it was two days past the deadline and he was two strokes behind.

As he paced, Todd said to me, “Don’t judge me David, I am getting some help. I am smart enough that I need God to help me kick this habit.”

I smiled to myself. I was really thinking about how I was going to sink my putt. What was going on in his head was between Todd and God.

I am reminded of a quote by A.J. Russell: “Never judge. The heart of man is so delicate, so complex, only its Maker can know it. Each heart is so different, actuated by different circumstances, influenced by different sufferings.”

It is best to let God unravel the puzzles of life; all that is wrong God can make right.

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