I neither golf nor particularly like golf.
And yet, on the weekends now, I walk nine holes.
I don’t play. I don’t carry the clubs. I just walk along, or sometimes ride along, while my husband plays. When he drives off the tee I pretend I see where the ball went. (I have no idea). When he talks to me about reading the green or whatever voodoo it is he’s doing, I nod and listen.
I sweat through my shirt and, last week, walked seven out of the nine holes with soggy socks because the green was wet after a rainstorm. I wave my hat at clouds of gnats. I watch him make his practice swings and make his tiny arcane adjustments.
The best part is the putting. He lets me putt every hole. I’m not half-bad.
But I hate golf.
So why am I there, on the course, walking double-speed to keep up with his long legs? Why on earth did I say yes when he gave me a hopeful smile one day and said, earnestly, “Why don’t you come with me while I play nine? We can talk and have fun together.”
Because love. Because of a particular sort of love.
We live in a world that preaches a secular gospel of serving the self: do what serves you, and release the rest. But in a world where we prioritize what serves us, the behaviors that serve others are the first to go.
I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve always lived a life divided between scholarship and career and home, so I’ve been protective of the time that is “mine.” As I have grown older and that time has grown scarcer, I’ve grown even more protective of it.
But life is long.
And the older I get, the shorter it seems, and the more fragile. And I find that “my time” is a little less important now than it used to be. This wasn’t a conscious decision: I suppose in His way, God is growing me up. Because I am learning that given a choice between selfish indulgence and sacrificial loving, what endures is often the second.
That’s not to say it’s never right to draw boundaries on one’s time or energy, of course. Even Jesus had to withdraw from the crowds. I am, as we speak, planning a mini “writer’s and artist’s” retreat for me, myself, and I. We live in a world where many people mistake Christian ministry for salvation, and where it is much easier to fill up one’s time with a lot of Christian activities than it is to actually spend time growing closer to God. Learning to say ‘no’ and figuring out when it is important to withdraw and allow God to tend to you is vital.
That takes wisdom. But so does giving up something to love someone else.
“Do you golf?” a friend of mine asked me recently.
“I thought you said you went golfing with your husband.”
“He golfs; I just walk around and goof off. And putt.”
I said, “Because we love each other,” and laughed, but now I wish I’d said something different. I wish I’d said this:
Every weekday morning for the past seven years my husband goes downstairs at six a.m. and he makes me coffee. He figured out how to measure out the milk, get the steamer going, do the whole nine. He spent more time than I probably want to know figuring out how to draw those tiny shapes in the foam. And when I stumble downstairs bleary-eyed there is a perfect cup of coffee at my place at the table.
He hates coffee.
And that’s why I golf.
I don’t mean to say that love is doing something you hate for someone else. Rather, love looks a lot like meeting someone else at the place of their joy and delight and conspiring to share in that, to facilitate that, in some small way. Simple. Rare.