The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul… – Psalm 23
Okay, I’m going to say something that may well get my name maligned everywhere from St. Andrews to Augusta. It’s foolish, granted, and I’m sure nothing good can come of it – but I think I’m going to say it anyway. Here goes: I think I may have figured out golf.
Tweet that, I’m thinking, and I may well break the Internet!
Obviously golf isn’t a game that can be mastered in any way; it is, after all, more metaphysics than physics. There are thousands of variables that come into play on any given day – mechanical, mental, environmental, emotional – so I’m not suggesting I’m about to start making low scores.
But I have – at least in the two games I’ve played to date in 2017 – apparently figured out how to make good contact and hit the ball fairly well. Of course there’s a huge difference between hitting the ball well and scoring, and I’d have to play a little more often to achieve that. But a couple of things have happened that make me believe I’m actually on to something (and did help me shoot a 38 including two three-putts on the back nine Tuesday afternoon).
The two key elements are concentration and relaxation, and they comprise the essential point of this post. While they sound mutually incompatible, they turn out to be two sides of the same coin, and it seems like another level kicks into play.
- My concentration is much better
- I have become much more relaxed.
But wait, you say, doesn’t concentration require more tension, more running through things in your mind, more mental stress, a faster heart-rate, more stiffness and formality?
Well yes… but only if you’re concentrating on the wrong things! Concentration will only give you a headache if you focus all that mental energy on the uncertainty, the fear, the unbelief, and the absurdity/complexity of the task you are overthinking.
I’ve often said – joking, but not really – that thinking and golf should never be attempted at the same time.
By “concentrating” I’m talking about consciously eliminating all the noise in your head; about immersing yourself in the moment; about simply doing the one thing – The One Thing; about exiting the peripheral world and entering the small – but also immense – instant in time you currently occupy; about taking a couple of deep breaths and committing yourself without holding back.
And by “being more relaxed” I mean exactly the same thing. Being relaxed is not being concerned about all the component details (I had a friend once – an engineer of course – who told me he had, “Broken down my golf swing into twenty-three distinct parts. I try to make sure I’m doing each one correctly when I hit the ball…”). Being relaxed means not worrying about the score, the current predicament, the next hazard, the last poor shot, the “how to” video you watched yesterday… but simply enjoying the moment, and swinging the club without a second thought.
Spirit of the Living God…
I find the same principle in play when it comes to moving forward as a faith-filled, Jesus-following, believer. When I concentrate more (see yesterday’s post on Being a Contemplative) on living into my faith, and when I allow myself to relax… melt… mold… subsume… enter into… God, then it seems like another level kicks into play.
When it’s not about me anymore, but about following Jesus; when it’s not a matter of keeping all the rules, but allowing Jesus to rule; when it’s no longer a matter of trying too hard, but giving up my need to be in control; when I move away from what holds me back and simply believe… then it seems like this life of discipleship begins to make sense, and that other level kicks into play.
- When it’s not about me anymore, but about following Jesus;
- when it’s not a matter of keeping all the rules, but allowing Jesus to rule;
- when it’s no longer a matter of trying too hard, but giving up my need to be in control;
- when I move away from what holds me back and simply believe…
No, this post isn’t even vaguely about playing golf! It’s about – as the classic hymn puts it – “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; break me, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me….”
So I looked up the song, searching for the lyrics, and I ran across this wonderful reimagining of the concept, shared by the Vertical Church Band. Take a few moments to listen, and I believe exactly what I’m talking about – the combination of simultaneously concentrating and being more relaxed – will be evident.
Peace, and more peace – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.