Immediately, a memory flashed through my mind in technicolor and surround-sound.
I knew the same memory was flashing through Ethan's head when the only word I could understand through his laughter was "putter."
There was a time when I thought there would be no more sharing memories with Ethan.
What an amazing gift. To laugh. To share. To remember. Together.
I'm not sure if we were laughing about one of my best parenting moments or one of my worst.
Regardless, we were laughing together, and together is always a gift.
Ethan was about fourteen or fifteen. He was playing in a two-day golf tournament in Mobile, and he was playing terribly. He spent most of the tournament in the woods, looking for lost golf balls.
I rode in a cart with other golf moms, and was thankful for their friendship and patience. They knew what it was like, after paying a huge entry fee, for their sons not to be able to hit a beach ball much less a golf ball.
Ethan's whole game had been off. His tee shots. His iron shots. And his putting. He putted so badly, I really think that if he had picked up the ball with his hands, and put it in the cup, it would have jumped out.
It was not a good tournament. But Ethan loved golf, and we both knew there would be better days playing golf. We also knew that all athletes have good and bad days, and unfortunately in golf there is no room for being a "little off."
Ethan and I were driving home from the tournament, discussing what went wrong and where he might need to concentrate his practice the following week.
That's when Ethan said, "I think it was my putter. I think I need a new putter."
With that comment I pulled off the road, stopped the car, and told Ethan to get out. Yes. I told him to get out of the car two hours from home. And in that moment, I meant it.
My mind was "chinging" like a cash register, ringing up all the money that had been spent on putters, drivers, and other various clubs. They were usually all given as birthday or Christmas gifts, but all golf gifts are expensive gifts.
Ethan looked confused. He knew I was his greatest cheerleader. I never missed a tournament, and although parents weren't allowed to talk to their children during a match, I would smile, nod my head, or give him a thumbs up even when he had to take off his shoes, roll up his pants, and wade into a pond to find a lost ball.
Ethan knew, as well as any fourteen or fifteen-year-old could, the time and money Jim and I had sacrificed for him to pursue his passion.
When Ethan didn't get out of the car, I told him he could either get out of the car and walk home and never play golf again, or that he could promise never again to blame his poor play on his equipment.
Ethan chose to continue to play golf and accept responsibility for his game, and I remained his greatest cheerleader. Regardless of how he played.
Ethan, when he found himself disappointed with himself and fearful that he had disappointed others, blamed his gift.
I too have blamed my gifts.
I think maybe we all do.
Adam sure blamed God's gift of Eve when he disobeyed God and ate the apple.
I've blamed my husband, a wonderful gift, for my frustrations and tempter tantrums when they actually come from the selfishness that lives in my heart.
I've blamed my children for my worry and anxiety, when my unbelief in God's goodness is the source.
It's easy for me to blame the business of others for my feelings of rejection, when those feelings are the result of worshiping at the "wrong feet."
I can blame life's disappointments and my past mistakes for my wandering and wilting, but it's me who decides to live in the world of "if only."
I can blame my lack of discipline on my circumstances.
Yet although they are hard, God has told me that as His child I am an over-comer.
I could blame the church, politicians, the weather, or the oak trees in my front yard. I could blame the fish in the bayou, or the sand in my shoes.
To tell the truth, I probably have.
I've wondered why Ethan felt the need to blame his putter.
I've wondered why I feel the need to blame the gifts in my life.
Could it be that it's just too much to admit we've failed?
Is it just too painful to admit that, after all the trying and striving and all the promises to do better, we've missed the mark again?
Does the realization that we'll never get it right, that we'll never be good enough, and that we will continue to fall, make us turn hatefully to our gifts and throw the blame off on them?
Do we blame our gifts because we have forgotten that Jesus came to fulfill the requirements of The Law, once and for all, because we can't?
Could it be we blame our gifts, because we forget that Jesus came for the sick and the weak and for those who have no righteousness of their own?
Would there be the need to blame, if we accepted the grace the tax collector accepted when he prayed, "O God, be merciful to me. I am a sinner?"
I know that the day Ethan blamed his putter, he was thankful for the gifts he had been given, and that he was just looking for a way out.
God knows that I am thankful for my gifts and that when I blame them, I have forgotten that Jesus is, and will always be, My Way Out.
Jesus came to do what I could never do for myself.
He took my failure on the cross and gave me His righteousness.
That is The Gospel and that is where, and only where, the blame game can finally come to an end.
"If we want to enjoy the benefits of The Gospel in our daily lives, we must learn to live like Paul. We must learn to look outside of ourselves and our performance, whether good or bad, and see ourselves standing before God justified - cleansed from our sins through the shed blood of Christ and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ." Jerry Bridges The Transforming Power of the Gospel
God put the wrong on Him who never did anything wrong,
so we could be put right with God."
2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21