Keep Your Eye on the Ball
I took a deep breath and adjusted my feet. The soft grass glistened in the morning sun. Light and heat warmed my limbs and I breathed it all in again – so thankful to be outside on this summer morning with the birds chirping and the leaves gently swaying.
I positioned myself just a tad more, inhaled a mini-prayer of gratitude, pulled my arms to the side and let her rip.
Thwup. The hollow sound of topping the golf ball from the tee was not what I was hoping to hear. My bright white ball snaking through the tall grass was not what I was hoping to see. Chalking up a 30-foot drive was not how I was hoping to start my day.
I teed up another ball while the other golfers were still stretching and positioned myself again. A relative beginner – about five years in the sport – my golfing buddies often let me “try again.” A little more rushed this time, I swung again. High and to the right, I heard my ball hit some leaves before careening off in the woods.
“Take it easy,” someone suggested. “Let the ball do the work,” another well-meaning voice offered. I picked up my tee and smiled, “It takes me a few holes to warm up.” I told them and myself.
But I was out of sync last week and every shot was over or under or missed altogether. You start getting in your head when that happens. Rather than address the ball with hope and purpose, you kinda dread what the outcome will be. I’ve seen pros do it. I watched a lady’s tournament when the lead golfer was up by 5 shots and then she imploded the last three holes. She came in second – which we all know is good – but she lost about $500,000 with those six shots she missed.
How does one recover? It can feel like you’re being buried alive, shovel by shovel, shot by shot. As I walked up to my next tee shot, I heard another voice. A deeper voice, not in tone but in origin. It was the voice of my teacher – the Holy Spirit. “You’re taking your eye off the ball.”
He was right! This is like golf 101. How had I forgot? The most important rule of golf is to keep your eye, your focus, on that one little spot. Sure, you need to line up correctly, and swing correctly and choose the right club and all that jazz, but none of that counts if you don’t keep your eyes where they need to be.
It’s that simple. And it’s that easy to forget. I’m sure there is some variation of this rule in every sport just as there is in life. And the thing is, it’s not rocket science, it is simply the core of life – the Spirit reminded me, the essence of success is to remember what success is. Not as the world defines it, but as you know it to be in your heart. It’s keeping those outside thoughts and voices out of the moment BY keeping God’s voice of love in focus.
When I thought back to my last shot, I had seen the ball, but this time I really focused on it. I looked at each little dimple on the surface and noticed a tiny bug hovering over it. I let my gaze rest on the shape and perfect round structure. I stopped thinking about the outcome or saying the mantras one says to oneself. I just focused on the ball.
Thwap! This time the ball went sailing. There’s a certain crack you hear when you hit the ball just right. And there’s a certain satisfaction you feel when you see it sailing center mass.
But the thing is – even the results can sway our focus. Success is just as distracting as failure. Sure it might feel better but the key is to stay focused. The Bible says it this way in Hebrews 12:2 – “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.” The Greek word is aphorao and it means “to look away from all else” according to Strong’s Concordance.
I love how the voice of Truth so gently reminds us that faith is a promise that God gave us through his Son Jesus. It is not a test that we pass or fail. It is not a garment that we can take on or off. In the verse in Hebrews 12 the author compares it to a race that we run. We all start. We all finish. The prize is not here, but in Heaven when we get to sit down with God and with Jesus and with all the saints. The verse even promises that Jesus is perfecting our faith. We don’t have to run faster or harder or worry that we will fall behind. We don’t have to look at how others are running their race and compare or contrast ourselves to them. We just have to keep our focus on Jesus – the one who died for our sins that we might become the righteousness of God.
How absolutely simple is that?
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21