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Apologizing During Golf

Andrea G. Schwartz
  • Andrea G. Schwartz,
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Acquaintances often ask me to share my "secrets" for being able to engage in apologetic conversations with non-Christians in the most unlikely circumstances. For me, one of the most fertile grounds for this activity is a golf course. You see, my summers involve regular attendance at junior golf tournaments with my daughter. The officials work very hard to have each group finish within a 4 – 4 1/2 hour timeframe; but these competitions often can run five, sometimes six, hours. Besides being tiring on the feet, they are times where I have the opportunity to get to know the parents of the girls in my daughter's group. In fact, in our family devotions before we leave for a tournament, my husband prays that Dorothy will play well and that God will set up "divine appointments" for me with specific people with whom He wants me to interact.

Recently I shared an almost five-hour round with a man I will call "Joe." I've known Joe for over three years now, having shared a number of rounds as spectator with him. I've gotten to know much about him (as he has me) -- his occupation, facets of his childhood, and the things he likes and doesn't like having to deal with in the world. Joe is the sort of guy who is very sure of himself and his own righteousness, actively determining and defining good and evil for himself. Unpleasantly, he repeatedly takes the Lord's name in vain over the trifles of a missed putt or a bad decision on the part of his daughter. Joe, like so many of our day, is sure that he has life all figured out.

Heading toward the end of the round on the first day of a recent tournament, (one in which his daughter was a good dozen strokes better than mine), he lamented that each time his girl got ready to hit her shot, the wind would kick up, potentially making her shot much harder than anyone else's. That was not an accurate observation, but one he maintained. I pointed out that there are some phenomena that cannot be controlled, and we need to view them as under the jurisdiction of God Himself -- the wind being one of them, blowing where it will. He snickered and sneered and informed me that God couldn't care less about what happened in this round of golf, one way or the other. I told him that I begged to differ with him -- the Bible clearly states that there is not one facet of life that God is not intimately connected with and concerned about -- not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Lord knowing about it. In a most patronizing, condescending voice with a hint of ridicule, he asserted, "Now you're sounding like a Calvinist!" To which I replied, "I am a Calvinist, and unashamed of it. I believe in a sovereign God who foreordains whatsoever comes to pass."

Now, Joe was a bit flustered, and all he could say over and over was, "Really, a Calvinist? Really?" It was quite funny witnessing him try to reassure me that he didn't have anything personally against Calvinists -- that he is a very tolerant guy -- one who believes all religions have an equal footing and all should be studied and applied. In fact, he made sure that I understood that he has known Calvinists whom he liked very much. When he regrouped, he commented, "Now it all makes sense. Now you make sense to me."

For the rest of that day and the day following, every time I saw Joe he kept bringing up the subject. In fact, he told his daughter (who won the tournament) that "Mrs. Schwartz is a Calvinist -- one of those 'religious people' who is very consistent in her beliefs." I further bewildered him when I asserted that he, too, was a very religious person. His was just a different religion. That made him speechless – for a time.

I'm guessing that the God Joe is sure is too busy for the likes of him, was successfully getting under his skin that day with me as His vehicle. As I was leaving the course, he yelled, "I plan to continue this discussion!"

Anytime, Joe. Anytime.