Out of the Shadows

A mentor of mine often says that if he could define what it means to walk with God in one word, that one word would be—listen. That’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when there is so much noise from the struggles of living a life in a fallen world.

But I’ve found God is speaking all the time all around us. If I want to become the spiritually mature man I was destined to be, I have to be tuned into His “channel”. The medium always differs and the message can be as subtle as a flower blooming in the spring time or an infant trying to stand for the first time. My heart simply needs to be open to receive, while at the same time being deliberate in the recovery of my authentic self.

I love watching movies, especially sports dramas as I mentioned in my last post. Whether it’s Field of Dreams, Rudy, or Hoosiers, they capture the imagination and tap into our childhoods to remind us that miracles can happen. And the music scores never disappoint. Recently I watched (for the umpteenth time) The Legend of Bagger Vance (Dreamworks/20th Century Fox). For me, the entire movie is a metaphor for how Jesus “caddies” us on the golf course of Life, helping us recover what we lost as a result of the wounds inflicted upon us. There are many scenes that I could site where I hear the voice of God. But there is one in particular that speaks directly to me and my continual walk of recovering…me…the real me.

In the hole
In the movie, Randolph Junuh (Matt Damon) is the war-torn hero from Savannah, Georgia who, as a result of his experiences in war, he’s lost himself and his golf swing, crawled into a bottle, and has chosen a life of isolation. A golf match is arranged to save the towns Country Club and bring hope back to a suffering town. As a result, Junuh is wrestled into playing in a four-round, two-day match against Walter Hagan and Bobby Jones, the 2 greatest golfers of the era. As I mentioned, there are many great metaphors throughout this film, but the scene in the woods, which is the antitheses of the film, is poignant.

Junuh, after not listening to his caddie, Bagger (Will Smith), starts playing poorly and hits his ball into the woods. Once he enters those woods he starts having flash backs from the war, where he lost his entire company. He breaks down and starts shaking and starts to reach for his ball as if to withdraw from the match altogether. Bagger eloquently breaks in and asks Junuh if he will be needing a different club.

Junuh says, “I can’t do this.”

“Sure you can,” says Bagger. “Just loosen your grip up a smidge. You know, a man’s grip on his club is like a man’s grip on his world.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about” says Junuh.

“I know”, says Bagger

“No you don’t!” exclaims Junuh.

And then Bagger, whose tone was more playful before, goes more firm. “What I’m talking about is a game. A game that can’t be won, only played.”

“You don’t understand,” says Junuh

And with a soft yet stern voice Bagger says, “I don’t need to understand. There isn’t a soul on this earth that ain’t got a burden he don’t understand. You ain’t alone in that. But you’ve been carrying this one long enough.” Now slowing waking toward Junuh, “time to go on and lay it down.”

“I don’t know how”, says Junuh.

“You got a choice. You can stop or you can start”, says Bagger.

“Start?” Junuh asks.

“Walking”, says Bagger.

“Where?” Junuh asks.

“Right back to where you always been. You’ve been standing there. Still. Real still. And remember.” Bagger explains. He’s now in front of Junuh who has stood up from being hunched over, hands on his knees, but still has his head down in shame.

“It’s too long ago”, Junuh explains.

“Oh, no sir. It was just a moment ago”, Bagger says with a small grin.

Junuh looks up. Their eyes meet. And Bagger, still smiling says, “It’s time for you to come out of the shadows, Junuh. It’s time for you to choose.”

Junuh looks through a small opening in the trees in the direction of the hole, “I can’t.”

“Yes you can. You ain’t alone. I’m right here with you… Been here all along.” says Bagger. “Now play the game. Your game, the one only you was meant to play. The one that was given to you when you come into this world.” He hands Junuh the club. “You ready? Take your stance.” Junuh addresses the ball. “Strike that ball, Junuh. Don’t hold nothing back. Give it everything.” Junuh grips the club. “Now’s the time. Let yourself remember… Remember your swing.”

By this time Junuh is looking through that small opening in the trees that he has to hit through and he starts to remember who he is and what he is created for…he comes to himself. He strikes the ball and it lands perfectly on the green just a few feet from the hole.

We all lose our “swing.” Somewhere along the way, between when the wound was inflicted and the many times we become what we must to survive, our true self gets lost in the shadows like a shipping tanker heading out to sea through a foggy harbor. God wants nothing more than for us to come out of the shadows and recover our true self. We’re not alone. He’s always been right there with us if we’re willing to listen. All we have to do is loosen the grip on our life and trust. Trust in God. Trust in others walking with God. But we’re all trying to win at life, controlling every detail so we can predict the outcome we believe will make us happy. Life can’t be won, only lived.

Our journey is about recovering what we’ve lost and becoming who God created us to be. Each of us uniquely created in His image. For too long I settled for the counterfeit and it robbed me of life—a life lived out from behind the shadows of the mask(s) I created and put on to be who I believed others wanted me to be just so I’d be accepted. God is calling me to be who He wants me to be and to live out of the gifts he gave me…to live the only life I was meant to live, the one he gave me when I came into this world. So I will listen. I’ll continue working to shed the mask of my false self, come out of the shadows, and remember my “swing”.