Many didn’t think it would happen. Just a couple of years ago, Tiger Woods could barely walk. The notion of him returning to win another major golf tournament was whimsical. For fans, him showing well at The Masters would have been great to see. Him winning it? A pipe dream.
Woods’ victory yesterday in Augusta points to a Gospel-centered truth in which we can all take comfort. No matter how far we’ve fallen, no matter how dim the prospects look for recovery, as long as you’re alive there’s always a chance to come back.
When I was in college Tiger made guys lose on the golf course as soon as he walked up to the first tee box. Others were that intimidated by him. As we’re only a couple of years apart in age, I watched him first on SportsCenter as a hotshot phenom at Stanford, then celebrated when he won his first green jacket in 1997. Count me as one of those guys who got into golf for a short while, mainly because of Tiger.
Woods’ devastating fall was just as jaw-dropping as his meteoric rise. I won’t go into the details, but it involved losing his family for a time and the mug shot that, for many, seemed to signal the end. Not only was his personal life a mess, but physically his body – specifically his back – had given up on him. He was done.
Sometimes people can feel “done” in their walk with Christ. They’ve slipped too far. Their mistakes became too many. When sin continues to whisper that they are beyond redemption, they begin to believe it.
While the Gospel is available at any time, Holy Week brings it to clarity for those not normally thinking on such matters. The holiness of Christmas can be missed due to the emphasis on family and consumer-friendly, gushy spirituality that better reflects a Hallmark movie than Luke 2. Holy Week tells the story of a king who rode triumphantly into the city before taking on the sins of the world.
This time also contains one of the most heartbreaking falls in the Bible as well. As a disciple, Peter had witnessed Jesus’ miracles and sat at the feet of his teachings. He was one of three allowed to witness the transfiguration. Jesus made it clear that Peter would be instrumental in what we see as the early church.
But this was the same Peter Jesus knew would deny Him three times. It was the same Peter who gave his denial a little emphasis with some cursing. While others stayed nearby during Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter ran away and “wept bitterly.”
And yet, there he was a few days after reports of the Resurrection, fishing with others as someone on the shore suggests they cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Peter recognizes his Lord and leaves the boat, splashing his way to Jesus, who has already begun cooking breakfast.
It’s at this moment, I believe, that the Gospel crystalized for Peter. He had the head knowledge from before through all the time spent with Jesus. But at this point everything he would be preaching became personal for him. He saw its true importance.
There was a similar moment on the golf course yesterday. With all the drama each hole held as Woods came back to take the lead, the scene I remember is him walking off the 18th green and holding his arms open to gather up his ten-year-old son, Charlie. Sure, winning The Masters was important. This was a different look for Tiger, though. There was a different kind of happiness than from his previous 14 major tournament wins.
That considered, from what I understand Woods follows his mother’s religion, Buddhism, more than any other. So as good as he feels today, I pray for him to find the ultimate peace and healing through Christ. My prayers extend for those Christian golfers in his circle and the opportunities they may have to share their testimony.
This week, churches across the world will hold services recalling the trial and execution of a man many thought to be just a religious teacher, even a zealot and threat to an empire. Christians know Him as much more, though. He’s the greatest comeback story in history. He’s the one who defeated death.
To put it mildly, Jesus is the one who shows us all that no matter where your relationship with Him is at this moment, you’re not too far gone. As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance to know Him. For those who have slipped, there always a chance to come back.