A couple of years ago, I wrote about my experience playing golf, and how much I stink at that game. I'm still at least as awful a golfer as I was then, as I haven't played since that day, but then again–while most golfers' games would regress if they went a couple of years without playing as I have done–I'm quite sure I haven't regressed past a skill level of zero. So perhaps I'm holding steady. If anyone asks me, I might say I've plateaued. I don't think about golf often, because I suppose that none of us really enjoy thinking of things that are humiliating to us, but it's been on my mind lately. I've concluded that one of the reasons I'm such a bad golfer is because I have no skill set when it comes to correcting the errors I make when I play. From what I can tell, every golfer hits bad shots, but getting better at the game is largely a matter of how well you're able to correct those mistakes and get back on the fairway (or, in my case, even back near the course).
If the golf course was a map of the United States, and a good golfer and I were both starting in a tee box in Texas, trying to get to the green in North Dakota, it's possible that both of us might have bad drives that end up in Arkansas rather than in Nebraska right on the fairway. But the difference between that good golfer and me is that they're likely to get back into South Dakota on the next shot. I'd be more likely to take five more shots and end up in Boston.
I've been thinking about this in connection with my year-long prayer experiment, part of which includes that I have four set times to pray each day. I've realized that for much of my life before experimenting with this kind of rhythm of prayer, many days went along like my experiences on the golf course. Even though I had every intention of living the day in a loving way toward God and others, it might not have taken long for me to get off-course. Then, even though I may have been painfully aware that things weren't going well, I would just keep whacking away at the day–on through the Ozarks and toward the East Coast–just hoping that the next time would go better.
Thankfully, though, praying in these ways seems to be something like being given the ability to get the ball back on the fairway. Again, beginning with the same good intentions as before, I might still get off track early in the day, but rather than crawling into bed at night and finding myself somewhere around Rhode Island, I have four chances each day–in the morning, at midday, in the evening, and again before going to bed–to pause, catch my breath, and head toward my goal again.
Something I've prayed this week:
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (A Prayer for the First Sunday After the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord, from The Book of Common Prayer)
[This is 14th post from A Year of Living Prayerfully.]