My Uncle Jimmy was a really good golfer. He had his PGA card and he even played in some Senior PGA tournaments. A funny thing about the memories of my relationship with my Uncle Jimmy, they don’t include golf. Except for one time.
See, he and my Aunt Nibs, came down to Florida to visit my mom and dad. During this particular visit, I just so happened to be home from college. So, Uncle Jimmy and I went out to play some golf.
I really enjoyed golf. I loved the manicured beauty of the course. I loved being out in the fresh air and sunshine. I loved the view down the fairway from the tee box. I loved knowing that every hole is a fresh start. An opportunity to make up for anything and everything that has gone wrong during the round. All it ever took was that one shot to bring me back again and again.
I had one major flaw. I had a wicked slice. I could hit the ball a mile, but I could never accurately predict where it would end up. My slice was so bad that I had to literally face my entire body to the left of my intended target, in hopes that my slice would curve the ball back to where I wanted it to land.
On this particular day, playing golf with my Uncle Jimmy, it didn’t take long for my problem to become evident. After our first hole, Uncle Jimmy politely asked me if I would like to fix my slice. Golf is, after all, a gentleman’s game. So, my Uncle Jimmy didn’t want to presume that I simply wanted him to tell me what to do, in order to fix my slice. Knowing that my Uncle Jimmy was very proficient at the game, and so not to appear rude myself, I agreed to allow him to teach me how to fix my slice.
On the next hole he proceeded to teach me a new grip and a new stance. It was so uncomfortable and down-right awkward. See, I had been golfing with the same grip and the same stance for twelve years. Now I was doing something new and it didn’t feel good at all.
I did hit the ball straight. But, I didn’t have the same power. Uncle Jimmy assured me that my distance would increase, the more comfortable I got with my new grip and stance.
We played the rest of that round and I occasionally sliced, when I fell back into my old patterns and habits. Uncle Jimmy was very proud of me and it made me feel good that not only was he proud of me, but that I had actually learned a new way to play golf, without a slice. We went home and Uncle Jimmy waxed poetically about our round and my ability to overcome my slice.
The next time I played golf, Uncle Jimmy wasn’t with me. Although his teaching was still with me. I continued using the uncomfortable grip and stance, for the first few holes. But, as I am sure you can guess, by the time this round was over I was back to my old, comfortable ways, of playing golf. And my slice had come home to roost.
This time I knew it was for good. For I realized that I didn’t care enough about golf, nor my slice, to put myself through the painful process of change. I simply wanted to enjoy the beauty of the manicured course, the fresh air and sunshine, the view down the fairway from the tee box and knowing that this hole was a fresh start. See, I loved playing golf. But, I had no interest in being a golfer. And there is a big difference between these two things.
The same is true in my relationship with God. I loved playing Christianity. I loved going to church. I loved singing in the choir. I loved being a part of youth groups. I loved how it felt to be free to be me, in the presence of others.
I was then introduced to a new way to play Christianity. This new way was all about relationship, as opposed to religion. It was, like that new grip and stance, very uncomfortable and down-right awkward. It forced me to break old, established patterns and habits in my life.
The difference, in this instance, was found in me. For I wanted to go through this uncomfortable, awkward transformation. I wanted to be a follower of Jesus. Not just someone who played Christianity. And there is a big difference between these two things.
Do I still enjoy playing golf? Yes. Even though I haven’t gone out in a very long time, I know how to play the game. And I know that I would enjoy it again, if and when I got an opportunity.
Sadly, you might be one of the many out there in exactly the same boat, when it comes to God. You know how to play the Christianity game. But you don’t want to go any deeper. You aren’t interested in changing your grip or your stance, when it comes to God. You are saved, but you aren’t experiencing the abundant life, here and now, that God intends.
Do you enjoy playing the game of Christianity? Or are you interested in being a follower of Jesus? Are you willing to go through the painful process of changing your grip and stance, when it comes to God? God is a gentleman, after all, so he will not force what he knows upon you. He will simply be available, whenever you are ready.