In my office is a little, gold man who both mocks me on a regular basis and also serves as a reminder of God’s grace for a sinner.
Who is he?
It all started in 2005 when I was invited to play golf in the Orange County Open Golf Tournament. Yes, this sounds impressive, but in reality, it is just about 30 friends who get together once a year to play together.
From high school through my early professional years, I was a decent golfer. Not what I would call a good golfer, but I had a couple of local courses wired and could hit in the upper eighties most days. In my early twenties, I was blessed to have a friend named Don whose uncle was a greenskeeper at a golf course, and Don could get us free tee times after three in the afternoon.
Life marched on, one thing led to another, and I put down the clubs for about ten years. When I picked them up again, something terrible had happened. My iron shots were still straight, but not as long as they once were, and my driver and “woods” had taken a turn for the worse (about a seven degree to the right turn for the worse). I got a pro and worked and worked on it, got a few new clubs, but alas, golf had become a challenge to my sanctification in the worst way. Golf was no longer fun, and I was always a hulking beast full of rage on the course.
Just as I was in the throes of fighting with my inner golf monster, I was invited to the tournament. It was simple, “best ball” golf. I planned on just playing off the best drive, hoping my short game would remain decent. That day my short game was not decent, and I only had one good shot in 18 holes. I was not only the worse player on my team, but I was an anchor, dooming my team to the bottom of the water hazard. Fortunately, however, we had a guy named Mike who was really good.
Mike had a long, straight drive and a good short game. I was so focused on my own failings that I was completely stunned when someone handed me a trophy and told me we had won the tournament.
We had a little celebration, and as I carried my clubs back to the car, I dropped the trophy, and the little, gold man who was in the middle of his swing lost his club. He is now just a little, gold man who has two balled up hands off of his right ear.
I keep the little, gold man nearby as a reminder of grace. Grace is rightly defined as, “unmerited favor.” In this case, the trophy reminds me of winning on one of the worst days I have ever golfed. Not only did I not deserve a trophy and a victor’s toast, but I couldn’t even hold on to my prize for 30 minutes without wrecking that too.
So it is with all of us: left to our own devices we will always ruin everything. Even if God just wipes our slates clean, we can't help but wreck everything again and again, even before we can get to our car in the parking lot.
St. Paul writes in Romans 8:31-37, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
God’s immeasurable love is shown to us in the face of Christ who condescended to be one of us, taking on the flesh of mankind, born lowly into a blue-collar family. He was not born into any opulence nor worldly importance, yet He is the Son of God, heralded by Angels and feared by demons with the power of the cosmos in the words He speaks. He allowed Himself to become the victim of your crimes. He allowed Himself to be judged guilty for your sins. Jesus who knew no sin, became sin so that you might be the righteousness of God, and through the water and the Word in Baptism, that is exactly what He has made you.
Galatians tells us that those who have been baptized have been clothed with Christ Himself (Galatians 3:27). The very righteousness of God covers you in Christ Jesus. When the righteous judgment of God comes looking for you, He never sees you as the loser that can’t keep from breaking a trophy within 30 minutes of receiving it. He doesn’t even see you as the dork who superglued his fingers together in a failed attempt to fix it, but rather, God sees you as the apple of His eye – as perfect – for Christ’s sake.
The little gold man has become one of my most prized possessions for he reminds me of God’s love for me. The prize of champions given to a failure.
Thanks be to God for His wild, two hundred proof Good News (Gospel). Because I can’t be sinless and perfect on my own, He who spoke all things into being, also spoke me to be righteous; and so, I am.
The golden man speaks to me and says, “you, my friend are a champion, but not for your own sake.”