Putting God before golf, and everything else

shane lowry.jpg

Shane Lowry, the Irish golfer who recently won the British Open, made an interesting observation about how he dealt with the pressure of entering the final round with a four stroke advantage over the field. The context for the reporter’s question was a similar lead several years back going into the final round of the US Open, which he subsequently lost. “It was much different this time around,” he said, “golf is not the be-all and the end-all of my life now.”

On the face of it, a puzzling response. In effect, I won this time because golf is not so important to me. But, then again, not so strange.  When something that is not in itself a life or death matter becomes a life or death matter, the attendant anxiety is off the charts. It does us good to repeat the mantra, “…whatever happens, the sun will come up tomorrow,” but I’m supposing that is given concrete expression in Lowry’s life by the wife and little daughter given him to love and who will be there for him come what may.

I’ve always appreciated St. Augustine’s definition of holiness as having our loves in right order. There is, I want to say, a rational dimension to this: to accord to each of the things that attract us a love in keeping with its intrinsic worth. The dynamics of addiction, and the misery that goes along with it, show this by default.  

For Augustine, of course, of decisive importance is giving first place to God, who is most worthy of our love. To the extent and degree that this first love is in order, then our other loves will fall into place. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a lovely expression for this, drawn from the field of music. The love of God is the “cantus firmus” of our lives. Just as a pre-existing melodic line allows for the many different variations that make up a beautiful piece of music, so does loving God allow us to love created things freely and proportionately.

We’re all a work in progress as far as this goes. But it is a great help to know the direction in which we are to walk.  

Photo from Evoke