Monday, August 12, 2013

Walking With Jack: Spiritual Guidance From The Game Of Golf (Part II)

This blog posting features the work of Kyle Smith.A former caddy, golfer (a lefty), sports fan and a Christian, Smith responded to Dan Snyder's book, "Walking with Jack: A Father's Journey to Becoming His Son's Caddy" with spiritual lessons and truth.  Below are three of his ten gems.

I hope you will consider the way a sport you love relates to the spiritual life.

5. Live Life One Shot At A Time
“Everybody talks about how you have to stay focused ONE SHOT AT A TIME. Well, here’s how you do that, Jack. You break the golf course into pieces. And claim ownership of it one piece at a time” (80)

“I don’t think in this life it is what it is. I think it is what you make it” (318)

I’ve quoted one of the more beautiful and thoughtful notes I’ve ever received below. It reinforces this idea: to live in the moment. While it’s prudent to plan for the future, the future shouldn’t come at the expense of allowing life to pass you by. 

Yes, sacrifices must be made at the present to achieve our goals. But we cannot dwell on the what-ifs. We have to accept our situations at the present and devote our concentration and energy to doing the best we can now. And when another opportunity arises, we can make the appropriate choice that is best for us at that moment. However, the key is not to get carried away with our desires at the present. Because a failure to delay gratification, to always desire more at the present, only draws our energy away from the here and now. From what we can control at the present. And that is what we must not forget.

“In a world full of opportunities, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the “what-ifs” and to live life with both feet firmly planted where you are. There’s an unlimited amount of doors we can open and close, but by choosing one, we lose the option to go through the others that are present at that time. And seeing them and wondering what lies behind them is difficult because surely they contain good things, surely you would benefit from wandering down whatever path lies within their stoop. But while we can’t have them all, we can give our all to whatever way we do choose - and follow it to our next set of doors where we can pick once again from a set of opportunities that are fitting for our current stage. And the beautiful thing is that there is no “wrong” door. Yes - there are some that will push us, pain us even, and those we cannot run through quickly enough, but through each of those doors lies a chance for growth and a chance to become that person we idealize ourselves to be.”

7. Bear Witness To The Beauty
 “I’m going to start not taking myself so seriously. I’m going to bear witness to the beauty instead” (160)
How easy is it for us to get wrapped up in the “what-ifs” of life? Or to project and plan so far ahead that we lose sight of what’s important at the moment? We let our thoughts wander so far ahead that we let the beauty of the present become distorted by our desires or dreams. Surely dreams are good to have. Dreams push us, grow us, and make life worth living. But we can’t ignore the beauty in every day. 
Beautiful Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland, site of the 2013 British Open.  It wasn't as green this year!
Snyder writes of one caddy’s attitude when preparing to head out onto the links in Scotland in treacherous and miserable conditions. While some of the caddies complained about the weather, he provided a little perspective: “It ain’t Normandy” (193). We’re blessed with the people around us and the opportunities that we have. Sometimes we fail to see that. 

There’s plenty in this world to laugh at, smile at, and joke about. In fact, beauty is everywhere if you take the time to look for it. Sometimes, like the wise caddy’s advice, it’s just a matter of perspective. 

Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” My favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. In the final scene, George Baily makes the choice to cherish the love of his friends and family instead of worrying about his other problems. “Isn’t it wonderful, I’m going to jail!” he exclaims. His financial problems are insignificant when compared to his love for his family and friends. This year, I put a sign up in my room that said, “What are you thankful for today?” And it helped me recognize even the smallest piece of goodness that found its way into my day. That’s what we’re constantly called to do – to bear witness to beauty.
Jason Dufner blows the PGA Championship Title in 2011
10. Have Faith: Be Not Afraid
 “You only get once chance.”
“Not if there’s still one person left who believes in you” (143)

“Though the game of golf is played on magnificent ground, it is perfected inside the mind.” (172)

Sometimes we pass up opportunities. Sometimes we fall short. But as long as there is forgiveness, as long as there is a deeply held belief in us, we are always given another opportunity to grow, change, and chase our dreams. How many times do we find ourselves asking for God’s forgiveness? Without fail, He will welcome us back with open arms. He will always work to find the lost sheep – He never gives up on us. As long as we accept responsibility for our failings and shortcomings, we are always welcomed back. I went to a talk in Dallas this past year sponsored by a group called Young Catholic Professionals. The speaker was Mr. James Moroney, CEO of the Dallas Morning News. He provided a valuable reminder for all present that night about the value of faith:

“A clever person once said that the key to managing your life well was akin to juggling balls, some of which were rubber and some of which were made of glass.  He said the trick was to never drop the ones made of glass. So, FYI, there are only three made of glass.  Faith.  Family. Friends.  Don’t get confused and think your work is one of those made of glass. If you do, I can almost guarantee you that your focus on your work will cause you to drop one of those balls that are really made of glass.  And when your faith is broken, when your family is broken, when your relationship with your friends is broken, you are broken, whether you know it or not.  And if you don’t know it, that’s the worst of all.”
Victory is sweet!  J-Duf wins the 2013 PGA Championship
Our lives, our decisions, our actions are all a result of our faith. In Matthew 9:20, Jesus heals a woman who has been subject to bleeding for twelve years and tells her: “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” We are called to daily live our faith through all of our actions, and most importantly, through prayer and the sacraments. To some extent, what we think, we become. Having a strong prayer life can help us become closer to God and give us the strength to help others. Prayer is a fantastic way to express gratitude daily and develop spiritually. If we have faith first, the other aspects of our lives will flourish.

If you would like to read Kyle Smith's full reflection, please let me know and I will send a PDF copy of it. 

Photo Credits
J-Duf wins

Dufner collapse

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