Sometimes a pastor just hits too close to home: as John Bevere concludes Chapter 8 in his book Good or God?, that is exactly what happens.
He reveals that he has had love affairs other than his love affair with God and his wife…
I have had one too and before you jump to a conclusion, it was with a sport, an all-consuming sport—golf. When Bevere speaks of his loving devotion to golf, it was as if he was writing my thoughts. I was right there with him in his struggle.
For me, it began with my Dad. Dad really liked the game and slowly he introduced me to it by hitting golf balls around our yard. We lived in the country, so sometimes he took out his driver and hit balls into the front field and I would go out in the field and try to retrieve them. Sometimes I would go out in the field and watch the drives go out from his club and it was fascinating and powerful watching the ball arc high up in the air.
In the early 1960’s, Dad was instrumental in constructing a local country club, volunteering his farming machinery and valuable time to clear the land and prepare the fairways. He was truly involved. He became a charter member of the club.
With his involvement, I had a place to try out my golf game and I began to do just that. I had a friend or two who played and I began to try to play. It was fun but I was not very good. I played until I left for college in 1970 but college was so time consuming that I put golf aside for many years.
Eventually, I got a job as a college teacher and I discovered some golfing buddies at work who were interested in the game far beyond what I used to be. Their love of the game slowly began to infect me as I found myself playing more and getting better at the sport. I used to go play nine holes and lose about six golf balls. To explain my improvement, I was now playing eighteen holes, my score was going lower and I played a complete round with the same ball. To be honest, I was far from the golfers you see on television but I was competitive with my buddies and that is all that mattered.
I sought opportunities to play more, watched hours of golf on television and developed an interest in spending more money on equipment. As I played more, I hit some shots and had some rounds that I began to be proud of and then it happened.
I began to spend a lot of time day-dreaming about golf. I would recall with vivid visions, the shots I hit, you know the one hundred eighty yard three wood that nestled right up next to the cup, the twenty-five foot putt that rolled into the hole, the approach shot with the pitching wedge that sent my ball up for a birdie [oh oh, I am lapsing into golf-speak].
While all this was happening, I can tell you what I was not doing. I was not worried about my family and since I was day-dreaming about golf a lot, guess what I was doing in church [when I occasionally went]? I was not listening to the pastor all the time; I was seeing golf shots in my mind.
By now, you have figured out where I am going with this. Golf became number one in my life and God knew it and my wife knew it.
Until I hit the hardest brick wall I have ever hit in my life happened and it all stopped.
In the process of dealing with this trauma, I began to see how misplaced my heart and affections were. I began to see that a game where you hit a little white ball with sticks is just a game. It was taking too much of my time and money and drawing me away from what is truly very important. I went through a period of guilt that I was so distracted by the sport. I did not give up the game but I began to see the error of my ways. About this time, I began to commit my life to Christ and along with that I began to assume a much better, a much more healthy commitment to my family. I began replacing my golfing buddies with a wife and child [the way it always should have been].
Recently I have had another hiccup of life. I fell from a ten foot ladder and broke my pelvis. Needless to say, my surgeon ruled out golf for several months and as I continue to recover, I have been preoccupied with much simpler things like regaining my ability to walk, mow my yard, drive a car etc.
The summer is almost over and the weather is beginning to cool. No golf at all in 2017. Here is my question: will I be able to play golf? Another question is, will I enjoy it? Will it be what it should have been all along: a source of recreation and enjoyment? Can I feel refreshed out on the golf course as I enjoy fellowship with others?
This is the week I will see.
Or will I be like so many people who are obsessed with the sport? Will I fall into a trap and give it my heart and affection?
You know this post is about much more than one person’s struggle with obsession. It is about leading a balanced life, a reasonable life, a life with a good sense of priorities—with God first, followed by family.
Play a game, enjoy a game but when the game is over, move on to much more important aspects of life that truly deserve serious attention.
Don’t fall in love with the world and neglect God; that love affair is not worth the cost.