Written By Bob Schindler, Chief Operating Officer of CEDE SPORTS
A Tale of Two Tournaments
I played in two golf tournaments in the last week.
You may or may not know that I played professional golf for four years almost 40 years ago. My time in golf was filled with failure and shame. Every day my worth as a golfer was posted on a scoreboard for all to see. When I ran into someone I knew, the first question almost always was, “What did you shoot?”
In those days, not only my worth as a golfer but my value as a person was tied to my performance on the golf course. This led to a roller coaster emotional life, with most of my life in the downs of that ride. Even when I played well, which wasn’t that often, I usually focused more on the poor shots of the round than the good ones.
Value tied to performance is a treadmill that will not stop. It is relentless and wearing to the soul. Even after good performance, the joy is short lived as the need to continue to perform arises.
The Gospel’s Impact
The gospel frees us from this performance treadmill. Our worth is no longer determined by what we do but who we are, by our identity in Christ – i.e., sons and daughters of God, members of God’s household. We are God’s workmanship, his masterpiece, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God intends our performance to flow out of who we are as an expression of our identity in Christ.
While that is what God intends, the battle for freedom from the performance treadmill can be a difficult and intensive one. At least it has been for me. My performance-based identity started long before I entered professional golf. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t feel the guilt and shame underneath all of my efforts to prove my worth by what I did.
Still A Work in Progress
What does all this have to do with the two tournaments I played in over the last week? After I left professional golf and eventually got into local church ministry, I didn’t play much golf for the next twenty years. When I came to Charlotte in 2003, I came hoping to play more golf. (I even went through the process with the USGA of being reinstated as an amateur in 2005.). It started with some local one-day tournaments. I eventually tried to qualify for a state tournament and made it.
My experience there uncovered the long-buried shame and insecurity. I didn’t like what I saw and felt, so I walked away. Disappointed. In the last year, I decided to re-enter this world, not to prove my worth as a golfer, but to integrate the gospel into this battle.
I wanted to see my experience match more of the truth I see in the gospel that declares God alone determines my value. Everything else I turn to is a dissatisfying idol. I wanted to live out that reality in this realm where I felt such shame and insecurity.
Tournament 1’s Evaluation
That brings me to the first tournament last week. This tournament was a two-day individual tournament that involved a battle with almost every shot. I battled to believe the gospel in the face of the experience right in front of me. Yet, as I played, I was able more than ever before to divest myself of golf as my idol to prove my worth and play the shot in front of me. I left that tournament very encouraged with a sense of hope that tournament golf could actually be a place of enjoyment for me.
Tournament 2’s Evaluation
Then I played in the second tournament, a two-man, one-day tournament. I came to this tournament with more confidence than the first but struggled executing some shots I typically do well. These poor shots became my focus along with my sense of failing my friend and partner. I was back on the treadmill, and, after the round, all the shame I was so well acquainted with returned.
What Did I Learn?
For the last several days, I have been processing these two tournaments. I see –
- The relentless nature of this battle to be free from the performance treadmill
- The depth of the shame that it produces
- How much I want to run from rather than embrace this shame from my failure
- The continual need for the gospel to set me free from my performance to determine my worth and produce such deep shame
Sports are a microcosm of life. Golf is one of the best metaphors. It is a meal of mediocrity, lightly seasoned with success and heavily seasoned with failure and shame. As such, I am finding it a great laboratory to learn about freedom from the performance treadmill.