For some years now, I have attempted to “play” golf. On some days, things have gone better than others, especially if I’ve had a chance to practice with some regularity, and my “muscle memory” is, as a result, well exercised.
Let me get out of practice, though, and my performance becomes nightmarish. I go for a lesson and things get even worse. It’s generally because I get tight, tense, sure I’ll forget something. Sometimes I find myself holding my breath as I run through the things I’ve been told to do and the things I’ve been told not to do.
Keep your head down and your knees bent. Or is it keep your butt down? Keep your left arm straight. Don’t rock and don’t steep your shoulders as you hit the ball. Hold the grip loosely in your hands and let the club do it. Oh, and don’t forget to follow through.
Do it all at the same time and all will be well.
In contortions, every muscle on edge, I swing the club and its head slams into the ground behind the tee. The ball dribbles 25 yards ahead and I grimace.
Oh, yeah, I think. The weight shift. I forgot the part about the weight shift.
Each hole after that presents a new challenge. One time I forget not to rock. The next time to keep my head down. By the time I reach the 18th tee, I’m tired, I’m cranky, my elbow hurts, and I’m acutely aware that I spent a fair penny to have this much fun.
On this last hole, I decide to stop thinking about all the rules. I relax, grip the club, step up to the ball, and just swing.
In a near-perfect arc, the ball shoots from the tee, flies straight down the middle of the fairway, bounces and rolls and finally comes to rest 175 yards away. And I laugh out loud.
The concept is simple, really. All those rules were intended to help me accomplish one thing—to swing the club along an imaginary plane and let it propel the ball by whipping it up and out as the head of the club passes through on the way to the end of its journey.
A friend of mine who was studying the Old Testament once counted the laws in the Torah. There were more than 600. Do this. Don’t do that. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Wear this. Don’t wear that. Say this. Don’t say that.
I came to fulfill the law and the prophets, said Jesus. Which laws? asked the disciples.
The greatest commandments are these, said Jesus. To love the Lord God with everything you are (since he already loves you, it’s only natural). And then, love yourself and your neighbor according to the same measure (if God loves you, then who the heck are you to NOT love you? And, while we’re on the subject, your neighbor is every other human, even the ones you don’t like and the ones you will never meet).
If God is love and Jesus and God are one, then love is the fulfillment of the Torah and the prophets. In other words, learning to love is the point of the rules—all 600+ of them. Paul seemed to think so. “Owe no one anything except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
When playing golf, it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it as long as you swing your club in the plane. The ball flies every time. If you practice that, pretty soon all you have to do is take a deep breath and swing away.
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free, said Jesus. Relax and just love away.
Wow. What if it really is that simple?