A Faith That’s All Arms

            My golf swing stinks. I mean really stinks. Granted, it was never good to begin with. I’ve always been more like the Cowardly Lion than Tiger Woods. But lately, my swing has dipped to new levels of frustration and embarrassment. Part of the reason is that I’ve only played golf three times since moving to Lexington almost four years ago. For some reason, I’m working way too much to get out on the links. My priorities, like my swing, are seriously out of whack.

I was able to play a few weeks ago, which is what brought on this self-loathing. There was a time when I could hold my own on the course, but my recent outing reminded me of just how terrible I’ve become. I was playing with an excellent golfer whose drives were everything mine weren’t – long, straight, findable. By about the 10th hole, I figured he only brought me along for comic relief. “Whoa, that drive was longer than one of my sermons!” Rimshot, try the veal!

As the round was concluding, I asked my playing partner if he had any advice for improving my game. No, he did not say, “Sell your clubs and take up chess,” but he had every right to do so. Instead, he said that the problem with my swing is that it’s all arms. When you swing with your arms, you are trying to generate all of the power yourself, relying on the speed of your swing to do all the work. An all-arms swing generates a lot of unnecessary movement and very little results.

The best golf swing comes not from the arms, but from the core and the legs. A good swing lets the legs do all the work, generating the torque and the power, while the arms just follow right along, not trying to do too much, simply following the lead of the rest of the body. This was demonstrated to me over and over as I watched the group in front of us, two men who looked like they might have been around when the game was invented in the late 1800s, knock their drives about 100 yards past where mine would have gone. Golf is a humbling little game.

So, what’s the faith angle here? It could be in the forgiveness I needed after muttering some decidedly un-Christian things at my golf clubs, my golf balls, my wooden tees, and various course hazards. I spent so much time in the sand that I considered buying a condo, and so much time in the woods that squirrels were storing acorns in my pockets. Or maybe the faith angle is how life is not a 300-yard drive straight down the middle, but a meandering journey that takes you here and there and everywhere, including a few trips out of bounds.

But here’s what I got from my good walk spoiled. Sometimes my faith is all arms. Too often I try to generate all my own power, thinking I can rely on myself to create the strength I need to live a life of faith. It’s almost laughable to think about this, but I do it all the time. I have these amazingly deep reservoir of power all around me and yet I brush that off and say, “No thanks, I’m good.” And then I shank my faith into the nearest overgrown rough.

Just as a good golf swing relies on the power of the core, a strong faith draws on the core of our belief, you know, that Jesus guy. If we are willing to let God do the work, then all we have to do is get out of the way and simply follow God’s lead. But we’re human, so we try to do everything ourselves, thinking that we have what it takes, that we have the answers, that we are just so sure that we know better than God. Shank!

I don’t have a lot of hope that my golf swing will ever get any better, but I do have hope that I will grow in my ability to be still and know that God is God and I am not. I have hope that I will not see my weakness as a liability but as a conduit for the unleashing of God’s strength. I have hope that my all-arms faith will evolve into something more powerful than I could ever create by myself. I have hope that one day my obedience and dependence on God will be par for the course, so that I can stop relying on my own strength and instead find comfort and challenge in God’s everlasting arms.

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