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Eyes on the Ball
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screen shot 2021 07 07 at 9.15.33 amI got out for a round of golf at the Air Force Academy with some guys from the church this week. I like playing at the Academy courses because the scenery is beautiful, but also because there are no houses to hit on either side of the fairways. Given the fact that I usually only play once or twice a year, my swing is somewhat less than predictable and the only safe place to be standing when I pick up a golf club is right at the hole. There’s little chance I’ll get close!


One of the problems I run into with my golf swing is my tendency to pick up my head and look for where the shot is going before actually making any contact with the ball. That usually results in “topping” the ball and dribbling it 30 yards ahead or “chunking” the grass underneath and carving out a divot deep enough to drive a truck into and still hitting the ball only 30 yards. It’s more than a little embarrassing when you’re playing with people who know what they’re doing.


I took a golf lesson once (just once) and the instructor told me two things to remember if you’re not very good and yet somehow you still get invited to go out and play with a group: 1) Play fast and don’t think too much. 2) Keep your eye on the ball. He told me to imagine that I had a rope tied around my head with a cement weight tied on the other end on it as a way of keeping my head down and eyes focused on the ball. As if golf did not induce enough of a headache…


After topping and chunking a bunch of shots this week I got to thinking that “keep your eye on the ball” is probably the only “swing thought” I should have when I go out on the course. I still don’t know exactly where it’s going to go, given that a golf swing consists of many different moving parts that all have to be in sync and rarely are in my limited experience, but at least keeping my eye on the ball will get it in the air most of the time and make it seem that I at least have some sense of the game. Even the majestic flight of a ball slicing 200 yards into the woods is better than not getting it past the end of the tee box.


As I picked up yet another 30-yard worm-burner, it occurred to me that this is also a great metaphor for the spiritual life. Keeping your eye singularly focused on what matters, on the will and purpose of God, enables you to put a lot of other things together, even if they take more practice. In this week’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). John Wesley, in his Discourse on this passage, says that the eye of the soul is “single” when it is focused on one thing: to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent – to know and love God, to please God in all things, to serve God and enjoy him forever. If you start every day with that one thought, that one focus, it allows a whole lot of other things to fall into place. Take your eye off the ball, however, and fix your eye downrange on the things you desire instead of the things of God, and you’re bound to not get very far.


We’ll be looking at this passage in detail in this week’s message, where Jesus says that money and possessions are some of those things that can cause us to take our eye off the ball. Getting our vision corrected and focus reestablished can make all the difference for the spiritual life.


I hope you’ll join us in person or online at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church this Sunday at 8:00, 9:30, or 11:00am Mountain Time. We’ll also be instituting a new method for serving Holy Communion, which we offer each week, by inviting you to come to the communion rails to receive the elements and have a brief time of prayer. I look forward to seeing you!


In the meantime, keep your eye on the ball!

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