Although I am not an avid golfer, I do enjoy getting out on the golf course for a round with friends when the opportunity arises. Because I don’t play that often, I do know that my game will be a bit unpredictable and I do my best to keep my expectations within reason. Anyone who has golfed understands the gratifying feeling of using your driver to smack the ball a significant distance from the tee box to a spot in the middle of the fairway. It’s the glamour shot, and for most of us, it’s the rare shot. Everyone wants the glory drive. It feels good, and it’s the golf stroke with the most visibility. It’s the one shot where everyone is focused on you. That can be wonderful or horrible, depending on the outcome.
The golfer’s score rarely is determined by the drive, though. It’s the unglamorous short game that really matters. The end result of your golf game is impacted most by your chipping and putting. Chipping typically happens while your golfing buddies are still looking for their own ball or trying to decide if they should use their pitching wedge or their sand wedge. Once you make it to the “dance floor” – you know, after you overshot the green once, then barely moved the ball the next shot in fear of doing the same thing again – your putting game can really make or break the hole. Your putting swing is measured in inches and the slightest movement in the wrong direction can send your ball into an even more precarious position. Even if you get on the green in two shots, you may take 4 putts to finish this thing. That’s when your awesome drive really doesn’t matter. True golf greatness happens in the short game. That’s where the exceptional golfer spends most of his time.
It’s like that in our walk as Christians, too. It’s easy for others to see that we go to church each Sunday, that we can quote Scripture, and that we drop a check in the plate each week. This is what happens when everyone is watching. The exceptional Christian is the one who gives when no one is looking. He offers companionship to the lonely. She shows kindness to those who despise her. He prays for his enemies. She shows patience and gentleness to those who are harsh. These are the actions that change lives and provide positive impact on others. Like the golfer’s short game, this is where we need to spend most of our time. The drive from the tee box is what keeps us coming back, but it’s that less visible short game that makes for a winning round.