This week in “How golf is like the spiritual life: the 150 yard shot.” Sometimes when talking about golf, people will want to know what clubs I use from various yardages. For instance: “Father, what club do you hit from 150 yards?” When I was younger this was a source of machismo--you wouldn’t want someone to be able to hit the ball farther than you do. Now though, I always answer the question with another question--"What’s the situation?" If the ball is in the middle of the fairway, on level ground, with no wind, on a summer’s day, I hit an 8 iron. But if it’s raining, cold. or uphill, I would hit a 7 iron. If I’m in the trees, I hit a punch 4 or even a topped driver; if I’m in the weeds I don’t hit anything. A lot depends on the situation I’m in.
I would say the spiritual life is very similar in a number of ways. Sometimes people ask, “Father, what do I say to my sister-in-law who has stopped going to Church?” Well, a lot depends on the situation. Why did she stop going to Church? If it’s because she got in an argument at coffee and donuts because some kid took the last sprinkle donut by knocking her son out of the way, the answer is going to be a lot different than if it’s because she thinks the Church is way off-base with their Athanasian proclamation of the consubstantial triune God. (Just checking to see who was paying attention last week.) Likewise if it’s because she doesn’t feel spiritually fed the answer is different than if it has to do with her feeling that God isn’t real because she has been sick for so long.
Sometimes people want me to tell them “Just do this,” when there really isn’t an answer to give. Just like on the golf course you have to take into account all your surroundings before you make a shot selection. This is the whole journey of the Christian life. Sometimes you just have to hit a lot of balls and look at the results to what might work best where. There is no way for a person to just pick up a club and perfectly do whatever the situation requires—this takes practice. Likewise with the spiritual life; the more you pray, the clearer things become. Plus, I’m pretty sure God is the best “Swing Coach” there is, so a few lessons under His tutelage should go a long way.
Fr Joseph Altenhofen