Deck Cheatham: Dig it out of the dirt

Deck Cheatham

"Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good — above all, that we are better than someone else — I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether." — C.S. Lewis

I began playing golf at age 8. I took to it immediately. For much of the past 53 years, I pursued the game as a scientist, intrigued by the intricacies and nuances and physics of the golf swing. I thought, and maybe wrongly, by perfecting my technique, good results would follow. Simplicity evaded me. Complexity consumed me. I dared not admit I lacked talent.

As with many endeavors in life, the game’s mystery drove my pursuit. Golf frustrated me and wounded me, revealed the worst of me. The game also brought great joy and deep satisfaction, revealed the best in me beyond intention and inclination.

Those frustrations produced harvests of good times when decidedly I forgot about science altogether and just played. Zen masters call it oneness. Science says when thought, feeling and action meld away and the subconscious takes over, the zone appears. The feeling is of losing the self, time slowing and one willing intent by seeing through the mind’s eye. I have experienced this a few times in my career. Or should I say, few times? A change in subtlety turns perception.

These days, I lose myself in writing. Not that writing follows my will, but more when I sit down attempting to form thoughts into words and sentences and paragraphs, and maybe, even meaning, writing envelops me. Intrigued, what is inside me stretches for the page, a destination realized by failure.

If the lesson intended by each forgetting is learned, forgetting about self teaches me how to love others not just as self but before self. Their sum tells me love is the end of faith. And isn’t love defined love distanced from self, an outward expression of a learned wisdom?

Reflecting on all my forgettings, what is God trying to tell me? I think he wishes me to know he cannot be used as a means. And while the means remain vivid and tangible, their palpability ossifies any real chance for Christian growth.

Following a golf lesson, golf pros use an adage when a student asks, “How do I learn what you are teaching?”

“You have to dig it out of the dirt,” is the reply.

Love does not always demand action. Inaction, purposed, can be as loving. Sometimes allowing is better than doing. Both begin with the thought of another.

And doesn’t God allow us ample dirt from which to dig these truths?

Isn’t relationship the dirt where forgetting self reveals love, even God?

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for some 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Please visit his blog at deckcheatham.com. Email him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.

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