Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Faithful Rewarded

That's right, friends, a new posting . . . what's more, a new look! I hope you appreciate the fact that all of this change means that it will likely be several months before I write anything in this space again . . . more likely, several years.

Many of you have asked me, "What drives you to write the masterful narratives that so delight us?" The answer, of course, is not much, or I would write more than once every 12 weeks or so. Well, on to the story.

It was a day much like any other. I could not fully comprehend its magnitude at the time, but I have since come to regard it as one of the most meaningful in my life.

Keith was a born golfer. Well that's not entirely accurate. Keith was, however, born, and he has been known to pick up a golf club before. Semantics have no place here.

My brothers-in-law, Matt and Tom, and myself were playing a round of golf at the glorious Prospect Hill Golf Course and Healing Spa in Auburn, Maine. Keith had graciously agreed to join us after attending a Women's Prayer Breakfast that morning. Why had Keith attended a Women's Prayer Breakfast? If you know Keith, you know that this is a question best left unanswered.

Keith's beard was magnificent that day. It was the first thing we noticed when he joined us on the third hole. He had rushed there from the breakfast and was dressed in full cold-weather gear, so bundled that he could hardly move. He wore a knit cap with ear flaps and three, possibly four, sweaters. The number no longer seems important. I should mention that it was November.

We had all teed off and it was time for the Kansas Wunderkind to take his first shot of the day. We all waited nervously as Keith extracted both tee and ball from his formidable facial hair. We would later reveal to one another that we had all had our doubts that he would be able to swing freely while wearing seven layers, but this is the hand Keith was dealt and this is the one he would play.

Keith stalked the ball like a lion stalks a baby gazelle. He stared at it with such intense hatred that Matt would later use this as a sermon illustration of the sinful nature. It was as though Keith's entire existence was wrapped up in obliterating this golf ball, as though tattooing this ball with his own anger might somehow erase all of life's problems. Who knows, perhaps this is possible. What I do know is Keith made us all believers that day.

Keith was bent so low that his face was mere inches from the ball. His whiskers grazed the top of the unfortunate Titleist as the dimpled sphere awaited its certain doom.

As Keith began his backswing, I got the first hint that something was very, very wrong here. To begin with, Keith was no longer looking at the ball at all, but he seemed to be staring a thousand yards into the distance at something that only he could see. He would later describe this as a bad idea. He had also immediately picked his left foot up off the ground and was standing like a crazed flamingo, never a good idea when attempting to make a balanced golf swing.

Keith's mighty downswing had the three of us in complete awe. We knew that we were witnessing one of the finest golf shots that we, and possibly anyone else, had ever seen. Keith generated enormous clubhead speed, and the wind from his powerful cut added to the chill of that cold November morn.

I closed my eyes. I could not look, as if witnessing something so beautiful and yet so menacing was wrong somehow. I heard one of the sweetest swings I had ever thought of hearing.

When I opened my eyes, I was surprised. I looked at the ground and saw a ball, untouched, sitting on a tee. The ball was perfectly at rest, almost relieved.

Keith rubbed his right elbow. "Ouch. That hurt," he said. To this day, it is unclear as to whether the mighty Kansan referred to his arm . . . or his pride.

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