I enjoy the game of golf. I know that may sound incredibly boring to many of you, but I do. I like it. I enjoy the fact that it is difficult . . . hitting a round ball with a crooked stick long and straight is not as easy as it seems. I enjoy the fact that it is a talking sport . . . like fishing, golf makes a story teller out of many a person who long to recount their “great” shots to a group of people who really could care less. I enjoy the fact that it is played outdoors. I enjoy the fact that it demands the integrity of each player to “count every stroke.” But of all the things I like about golf, one thing stands out. The thing I like most about golf is my Dad.
From the time I was old enough to swing a club, I can remember playing golf with my Dad. I remember riding around in the cart with him when I was in elementary school. I remember playing in tournaments with him . . . and losing. I remember sharing a high five over a shot well played, and then sharing the frustration of a lost ball. I love the fact that for four short hours I can “enter into his world,” meet his friends, and share some conversation. Most of the great memories I have about my Dad have occurred on a golf course. I love the fact that I have heard the same jokes over and over again year after year, round after round . . . and I still laugh at them. I remember the conversations we have had on the golf course together – talking St. Louis Cardinals baseball on the first tee, discussing my life as a college student as we walked up number two fairway, and talking about life as a pastor driving up to the tenth green. Yes, the thing I like the best about golf is my Dad. To this day, I associate the game of golf with male friendship– a gift I have received from my Dad. I cannot drive past a golf course, tee up a drive, or play a golf video game without thinking about him. The reason why: for me, golf is about the person, not the program. I care more about who I am with, than how well I played. It is just an excuse to be with him for a little while.
I was thinking about this today as I was reading Luke 6 and the calling of the 12 disciples. It is very interesting to me that when Jesus called His disciples, He did not ask them to join a program . . . He asked them to follow a person. “Follow Me” is the consistent refrain in the calling of each of the disciples. And you know what, they did? Peter and Andrew, James and John left family members and all that they knew to be with Him. Matthew gave up a lucrative career to be with Him. Jesus did not tell them “Follow this 12 step program,” He told them to “Follow Me.” The disciples decided to follow Christ, not because they wanted to do something, but because they wanted to do something WITH Him. It was the person, not the program that drew them to give up what they knew to do something else.
How about you? When you think of your spiritual life, what is it that you are most interested in? What is it that you are looking to God for? A religion? A set of rules? A program? If that is the case, then we will never get to experience the supernatural life that God is providing for us. When it comes to our spiritual life, it needs to begin and end not with the program but with the Person. We need to hear afresh the words of Jesus, “Follow Me.” That is what God is offering to you and to me. Not a religion, but a relationship. He is asking us to be with Him.
I think of the things that are so special to me about the times with my Dad on the golf course. They were special just because we were there together. In a real sense, the mundane game of golf becomes magical. Not because of the greatness of my game, but because of the company I am with. In the same way, when we “Follow Him,” the mundane of our life becomes magical. Not because our lives are any more interesting or our job is any less stressful or our relationships are any cooler, but because of who we get to be with while we struggle through those times. The life you and I live right now, with all its ups and downs, is just an excuse to be with Him for eternity.
This Christmas may you receive the gift of a relationship with Him.
“And He appointed the twelve that they might BE WITH HIM . . . “ (Mark 3:14)