Some say participating in a sport is a metaphor for life. Good sports show humility when they win and learn from their mistakes when they lose. They must be confident without being arrogant, determined without being stubborn and strong without losing their poise.
Sunday afternoon I woke up from my nap and saw the final hole of the Greenbriar Classic golf tournament. Apparently, a three-way playoff was in progress. The second player finished his putt as my bleary eyes focused on the screen. Then 26-year old Scott Stallings stepped up. The replay revealed his sterling tee shot had landed him seven feet from the hole. If he sank the putt he would win the tournament and an invitation to the Masters.
I have never played in a PGA tournament, but I have stood over many putts much shorter than seven feet and missed – several times. I bet Scott Stallings has too. As I watched him approach the ball I wondered what he could be thinking. Were his thoughts simply on the mechanics of a good putt? Did he think about other putts he had missed that day? Did he hear the encouraging voices from his past cheering him on or did voices filled with criticism unexpectedly ring in his ears? His weight shifted before becoming still. He eyed the hole and then the ball. In a pendulum motion, the club face rocked back and forth, gently rolling the ball into the hole.
When asked about the emotional roller coaster of the day, he displayed humility when describing one of his best shots. However, reliving his poorest shot showcased the source of his encouragement. Let his exact words ring in your ears,
“I felt really good going into 17. I made a great birdie on 16 and we had to wait about 30 minutes. I hit a bad shot and got a bad break. I hit the tree, went into the water, but we stayed with it and tried to make a par. Making a birdie like we did on 18 was incredible. I stayed in it all day. I had the verse Philippians 3:13-14, ‘Forgetting what is behind and pressing on to the goal’. I just told myself that the whole entire day. Even when I hit my ball in the water I told myself that, and to come out a champion on the PGA tour as a rookie is a dream come true.”
It was wonderful to see a young man confidently acknowledge the source of his encouragement on national TV. It was good to see he had the determination to pursue a clear-cut goal. But most especially, I was glad to see he had the poise from God’s comforting word tucked into the scabbard of his heart to wield as a mighty sword whenever his peace landed in the water.
God’s word slashes through discouragement and defeat allowing us to embrace His promises of power and protection. Defeat doesn’t always come in crashing waves. Many times it begins as mere trickles of discouragement from not feeling well, careless words, broken promises or betrayal. If not dealt with immediately, unattended ripples become tidal waves of negative emotion. When I take the time to step back and see things from a different angle, God is there to help me view the situation from His perspective. He keeps me from drowning, but doesn’t mind showing me when I am arrogant, stubborn and have lost my poise. It takes the daily drops of reading His word mixed with prayer to slowly create an ocean of confidence, determination and strength. Drop by drop my focus shifts from what others think of me or what I think of myself to what God thinks of me. That makes all the difference.
Thanks to all of you who posted your verses of encouragement here and on facebook last week. I loved reading all your comments and I’m sure those who had hit their ball into the water were also encouraged. May we all forget what is behind, straining toward what is ahead and press on to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.