Friday, August 08, 2008


This year marks a big milestone in my life, as I define milestones at least. I think my spiritual life is a lot like my golf game. For the longest time, I considered myself a golfer. First, I'm not a good golfer. I would go out and play, hit a few good shots and even more bad ones. I would get lots of advice and try and tweak my game on the course to get better at it. I never really worked on my game outside of the golf course and playing. I never tried to work on the fundamental elements of my swing or dig into better understanding the game and the techniques that the great ones use. I just went out there, played and tried to fix my game as I went.

I started reading about Tiger Woods workout routine and saw that he works out 3-4 hours a day off the course to play at the level that he does. Aside from that, he reviews game tape of his play and works with swing coaches on the fundamentals. He does everything off the course to ensure that he has the ability to play great golf on the course.

So much of my walk with Jesus has been me trying to do the opposite of Tiger's approach to golf, and more in line with my golf game. I would look at the things I was doing in my life and try and change those directly. I would look at the list of things Jesus said we should be and I would work hard to do those things. I would try hard at not flipping off the guy who cut me off, or not lying, or turning the other cheek. I would often fail and turn back to God and ask for help and ask him to change me. I was really following a gospel of sin management, trying to just keep from doing bad stuff. I would read books, read the bible and listen to various sermons and other Christian consumables. I tried to tweak my game on the course, but never really went back to work on the fundamentals of my swing. Did I grow and change? I did. Radically? I'm not sure I did. Don't get me wrong. When I look at my life, God still used me in ways that amaze me, gradually changing me to get me to a point where I'd be ready to do this.

At the beginning of this year, I was just tired of where my life was at in a lot of categories and I decided I would take a new approach across the board. I started digging into what being a disciple of Jesus meant in a new way. I started looking at what it really meant to trust and follow Jesus. Not just something he did or something he said, but trust the whole person of Christ in everything. I started focusing on learning from Jesus how to live in the Kingdom of God as he did it. I set out to learn whatever I needed to learn in order to obey him, understanding how to be changed on the inside to become the kind of person who loved others, instead of just trying to act like a person who loves other people.

I've started trying to incorporate different spiritual disciplines into my life and I've seen real changes in myself, changes at the deeper level of who I am, changes that surprise me. I find myself doing things differently, not responding the way I used to, not wanting to do things that I couldn't stop doing before. I like the way Richard Foster describes spiritual disciplines with this picture:

A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines--they are a way of sowing to the Spirit.
It's like I've started to work on the fundamentals of my golf swing, without even holding a club, and now I'm surprised that my game has improved.

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