Playing a Round of Life

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Golf has been played in Scotland for more than 500 years. 
The earliest courses were built on “links land” – soil-covered sand dunes lying directly inland from beaches. 
Links golf is not easy.  The ground is often dry and brown and hard.  Bunkers can be cavernous. 
Balls that appear to be perfectly stroked can bounce at odd angles and disappear into the rough.  And the rough is really rough.  Links courses are often bordered by gorse, an almost mythical vegetation that can seemingly cause balls to vanish.
Then there’s the weather. 
Meteorology in Scotland can change in a matter of minutes.  Cold rain may descend in the morning, followed by delightful sunshine at noon, blustery winds all afternoon, then a horizontal gale the following day.
Traditionalists exult in the agonies of playing the ancient courses.  “This is the way golf is supposed to be played!” they harrumph.
U.S. course designers have by and large disagreed. 
American golf courses tend to be neatly manicured.  Bunkers are more like sandy depressions.  The “rough” may look identical to your front yard right after you finish mowing. 
Golf courses in the United States reward good play.  If you hit the ball well, things will generally turn out well for you.  Every summer the U.S. Open, in particular, attempts to frustrate the world’s best golfers.  But it can generally be said that a round of golf in the U.S. is an exercise in fairness.
A round of golf on a Scottish course, however, is more like a round of life. 
Life is unfair.  It’s not easy.  You can do everything right and circumstances may still seem to be arrayed against you. 
The ball doesn’t always bounce cleanly in marriages, in parenting, in workplaces, at your doctor’s exam, and in town hall meetings. 
That’s why the opening salvo of the little New Testament book of James is so compelling: 
“Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:2-4)
Obstacles are required courses in the grad school of life.  They are the core curricula for human growth. 
We can face them knowing that God is bigger than any of the circumstances we will face today. 
His love is deeper than the most precipitous bunker.
And he definitely knows how to answer this cry of the heart: “God, get me out of this gorse.”