The conditions couldn’t have been any more perfect.
Senior year, I had home course advantage, my first nine holes had placed me in the top three thus far, and I only had five more holes to go.
My team was currently holding the lead and I knew that if I finished strong, not only could we win the Conference tournament, but I might actually place in the top three for the first time in my golf career.
It was now or never.
And I failed.
I broke a rule. On accident of course, but I broke a rule nonetheless and had to pay the consequences.
With five holes to go, I was disqualified from the tournament for misplaying an out-of-bounds ruling.
I was devastated.
Not only had I let that top three ranking slip through my fingers, but I had let my entire team down as we ended up coming in second that day.
I wish I could say that I came back stronger after that incident, but that would be a lie.
My game and my motivation for this sport that I had grown to love began to suffer.
I grew timid; unsure of myself and my abilities, and because of that I could not for the life of me maintain a consistent game.
It wasn’t until several weeks later and a number of tournaments and pep-talks later that I regained my confidence and continued to excel at the game of golf.
I look back on that season of my life and recognize some very important life and faith lessons that can be drawn from that tournament in particular.
Sometimes we really screw up; we make a mistake that simply cannot be undone and now we have to deal with the consequences.
Similar to my response to getting disqualified, many of us allow those fears, the disappointments, and the regrets to preoccupy our hearts and our minds.
We grow timid and uncertain; we lose focus and motivation to move forward and our faith that was once stronger than ever grows inconsistent, sending us on a roller-coaster of hills and valleys.
Have you been there?
In the tournaments that followed my disqualification, I remember trying so hard to avoid the out-of-bounds areas.
I took it upon myself.
I told myself I was going to get better, I was going to discipline myself more, I was going to get myself out of this.
Before I knew it, my focus became so consumed with all the dangers around me and my own ability to avoid those dangers that I forgot about the little yellow flag at the end of the fairway.
I had forgotten the purpose of the game.
Ultimately, regardless of how I played the course, the flag was always there.
That was fact. That was reality.
Regardless of how we navigate this game called life, God, our ultimate purpose, has been and will always be there.
While a mistake like mine in tournament play resulted in disqualification, be joyful in knowing that a mistake in life does not leave us disqualified.
You are not disqualified.
Don’t allow the mistakes you’ve made to further draw your purpose off course by preoccupying your thoughts and attention.
Don’t allow your failure to motivate you into trying harder.
Allow your failure to humbly lay you down beside still waters because He has already overcome the stronghold of your sin.
All too similar to golf, it is so easy to allow a mistake to negatively influence how you play the rest of the game; how we approach the next hole or perhaps how we approach the next day in life.
We have a choice though.
We have a choice between permitting our mistakes and our failures and our inherent sickness to bind us or we can look at Jesus, bound and beaten, and humbly accept His deliverance; humbly accept the fact that it was for that very mistake, that exact failure, and our crushing shame and disappointment that He died; that He took our place.
This is your reality. This is where you stand firm, in knowing that an out-of-bounds shot on hole five does not mandate a bad score on hole six.
A mistake two years ago, a month ago, today, whenever…a mistake does not mandate a life forever lived in shackles.
Because our purpose and our freedom is not influenced by our performance.
Regardless of what you think disqualifies you from the grace of God, the reality is that you are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). You have an eternal position at the right hand of God and your purpose on this course remains eternally intact, regardless of how you get there.
That will never change.
So the next time you find yourself focusing on all your mistakes and failures; all those dangers and ‘what if’ questions…
What if I get hurt?
What if I fail?
What if I let people down?
When you catch yourself dwelling on these things, set your focus on the flag at the end of the fairway.
Recall your eternal position in Jesus Christ and the purpose of this game we call life.
Your position is found in God, not on the scorecard you hold at the end of the tournament.
And while there is tremendous opportunity for redemption in an 18-hole golf tournament, there is even more so found under the grace of our God Almighty.