The ball was laying 2, putting for birdie on a green that looked more like a fresh steamed 1960’s hippie carpet than a piece of grass. The professional golfer, Phil Mickelson, approached his final shot with hat high in hand, waving to the crowd like the queen of England. At the time he was ranked #2 in the world, behind the infamous Tiger Woods, and it looked as though he was going to clinch the lead.
His ball was only 4 feet from the cup. All he had to do was stroll up, tap it in, and take the lead. He wasn’t nervous. He wasn’t cocky. He was focused.
So as Phil walked up to his ball, the crowd went silent on cue. His putter rocked ever so slightly back, shoulders swaying in sync like a decorative counterweight in an old grandfather clock. And as the club kissed the crest of the ball, nobody breathed for fear of ruining the moment. It missed.
You know there’s nothing so uniquely comforting and painful like watching a professional athlete make a rookie mistake. It’s a moment when the gods of the game descend from their heights for the briefest of moments to blunder like mere mortals. Giving the rest of us hope that maybe we too have something great in us. But the fact of the matter is, we all make rookie mistakes.
The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letter to the Christians in Rome when he says, “I don’t understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” He explains that sometimes we simply mess up without thinking, but there’s also another reason. Sin.
Oh that word. Just the mention of it triggers people into a defensive posture because they’ve been bludgeoned with it by those who are far more judgmental than they are kind. It’s a word that must be used gently, responsibly, with humility. Because like rookie mistakes, sin is one of those other equalizing factors that we all have in common.
Paul shows us that sin isn’t just the bad or evil things that we are a part of, it’s an independent negative force that influences what we do whether we know it or not. But it doesn’t have to.
Paul also teaches us that we have the Holy Spirit. The breath of God himself. The creative life-force that brought the entire universe into being and raised Jesus from the dead. This is what calls our bodies home. This is our daily companion. Like having a body-builder as a personal assistant.
So when you make those rookie mistakes, forgetting the name of a close friend, blowing through a stop sign, overdrawing on a credit card, I encourage you to invite the breathe of God to be your companion. Invite the Spirit of God to come and teach you the wisdom of the ages. There’s no shame in making a mistake. But it is a shame to forget that we have everything we need to thrive as followers of Jesus.