GOLFING in the FOG
Following God's DIRECTION when you can't see the DESTINATION
I was a caddie in high school. It was a great job. I’d wake up early on Saturday mornings and dad would drop me off at the country club a few miles from our house (No, we were not members. Yeah, not even close.). The earliness of those mornings meant that the short walk from the parking lot, past the terrace, and to the clubhouse always left my sneakers soaking wet.
Summer heat was rough (golf pun intended), but I loved the spring and fall, when we’d play our way through the course surrounded by bright flowers or vibrant, changing leaves. The golfers were generally very kind, and I was always amused by the amount of golf expertise they seemed to assume that I had. Me, a skinny, 15-year-old kid who didn’t play golf, didn’t watch golf, and who probably couldn’t even name more than maybe two professionals (I knew Jack Nicholas and that lemonade/iced tea guy). But they’d always ask my opinion like I was a seasoned pro:
Golfer (reaching for his bag of clubs): “What do you think, Jonathan? Greens have been fast today.”
Me (reaching for my list of vague clichés): “Tough one…Could go either way.”
Golfer: “You’re right. Good point. I’ll stick with the wedge. Thanks!”
Me: “Yes sir.”
The strangest times were when the morning began in deep fog. Our foursome would be standing on the tee, unable to see more than 20 feet ahead of us. But there was no delay to be considered. They had booked this tee time weeks ago, and there were other groups waiting behind us.
So, off we went. One golfer right after the other, swinging away into the gray mist. Now, as a caddie, one of my duties was to watch the balls carefully, mentally note where each landed, and head off in the direction of the furthest from the green. But what are we supposed to do now? We’d head off down the fairway, eyes scanning the ground, calling to each other when we found one and desperately hoping that the foursome behind us wasn’t in too much of a hurry. That could get interesting.
Usually, by the 3rd or 4th hole, the fog would burn off, we’d happily see the sun, and we’d finish the round in the full daylight.
It struck me recently how often in the historical record of Scripture, we see God asking someone to do something that makes absolutely no sense. To do something blindly. To head off in a direction without God indicating what the final destination is.
To walk by faith.
Faith is one of those words that sounds wonderful. Most people claim to be a “person of faith”. We know and respect many “faith-based organizations”. Politicians promise to “respect all faiths.” Faith is a word that sounds wonderful . . . until you have to actually live by it. Then, it is terrifying.
Think of the men and women of history. Don’t think of them at the end of their lives, after they’ve seen God deliver. Put yourself in their mindset years earlier, at the moment God is calling them to do the terrifying.
God called Abraham, a successful businessman, at the retirement age of seventy-five, to leave his hometown, the only place he’s ever known. And to go where, exactly? “To the land I will show you.” That’s it. No name. No location. No GPS coordinates. Abraham was to pack up everything and just head out. Into the fog. No destination; just in the direction of God. The result? God makes him the ancestor of millions—God’s chosen people. And blesses all nations through those descendants. (And by the way, God wasn’t done asking Abraham to make crazy, illogical decisions. Read of another time here.)
Ruth had lost her husband. Her security. Her future. It made perfect sense for her to return to her family and her native country. But she sensed the Spirit of God in her godly mother-in-law and she vowed, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” The Creator would redeem her, and she would become a crucial link in the ancestry of Jesus, the Messiah. But she had no idea at the time. No destination; just the direction.
This dear woman prayed earnestly for a child. Begged God for a son. And when He answered her prayer, she turned around and placed young Samuel right back into God’s hands. To live and serve, far from her, in God’s temple. She had no idea what God was planning for her son. She only knew that Samuel would find purpose nowhere else in the world. So, she gave him to the Lord. That is crazy faith.
Jesus’ call was simple. “Follow me.” He did not lay out a map on a table first. Or walk them through the timeline of the next three years. No destination; just the direction . . . “Follow me.” And “at once they left their nets and followed him.” Moments later, He called two more “and, immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Not long after, he called a wealthy, successful tax collector. He too “got up, left everything and followed him.”
When you’re golfing in the fog, and you lose your ball. Frustrating, but no big deal. Drop another one and keep going.
But when God calls you to follow Him, to die to yourself and your own logical plans, to step out in a new direction without any idea of the final destination, there is so much more at stake than a penalty stroke. There are real world consequences.
And yet, we are never really in peril, are we? God knows the future better than we do. God knows us better than we do. God has never failed; we have. Many times. God is faithful. We are fickle. Perhaps David said it best in Psalm 37:
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (v.3-4)
“The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.” (v.18-19)
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.” (v. 25-26)
So, play on. Don’t ask the caddies in your life what you should do. They don’t know.
Just swing away. The fog won’t always be there. But God will.
Follower of Christ:
What faith steps is God calling you to take today?
Articulate your fears to Him. He cares.
What other examples of God’s faithfulness during uncertainty can you explore with your students?
Do you ever share your own faith steps with your students?
Does following Christ seem illogical? Why?
What questions would you ask God? Read about another searcher’s questions here.