I, like everyone else, had tears in my eyes Sunday watching Tiger Woods win his fifth green jacket at the Masters. Against all odds, Woods treated all of us to the beautiful, joyous story of redemption as he raised his fists in triumph on the 18th green in Augusta.
This was Tiger’s first Master’s win since 2005 and first PGA major win since 2008. Since that time, Tiger has been famous for things other than golf, such as his sexual addiction, divorce, DUI, and four back surgeries. Any one of these things could understandably ruin a person. Taken together, it’s a shipwreck. But little by little, step by step, Tiger Woods put one foot in front of the other culminating in the resurrection you see pictured above.
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
There is a simple explanation why stories like these evoke such emotion in us. There’s a reason anyone with a pulse gets teary eyed over stories of redemption like the one played out for us this past weekend (and the one about to be played out for us next week on Easter Sunday). That reason is this: You and I are like our Father in Heaven.
If you wonder why you get excited and joyous and, yes, even tearful, when someone comes back from something that should have destroyed them it’s because God is like that.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a few stories about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and he does so by describing the emotions God (and all of heaven) has when someone lost is found. In heaven, Jesus says, there is much rejoicing over the one sinner who repents – the one who is down and out and shipwrecked. All of heaven celebrates when even one of us overcomes.
The story of Tiger Woods inspires us not because golf is great or because Tiger Woods is great. It inspires us because God is great and has made us like himself, giving us hearts that long for and explode over resurrection. And you want to know something even better that that? We don’t resurrect ourselves. God does. It’s all a gift!
This truth is both liberating and devastating. Liberating because, once the truth of it hits home, you realize you don’t have to do this alone. You don’t have to be stronger, or better, or smarter, or braver, or have more will power. Deep down you know that if that were the case, you’d be damned for sure because you’ve tried all that before and failed. We can’t resurrect ourselves. It’s going to require a supernatural intervention. Which is why this is also devastating. We are so used to being self-sufficient. Our lower nature, the one that too often controls our thoughts, has us convinced that we are the master’s of our fate. It is devastating to learn that only God can and must be our Master, and we have not allowed him to be such in our lives.
Tiger’s story is but a foretaste of what can be with God. There is an even better story than Tiger’s coming to us this Sunday. It’s the one where God became a man in order to die on a cross for my sins and yours. It’s the one where God chose to become all that is shipwrecked in my life and yours so that the works of the shipwrecker, the devil, might be destroyed. It’s the one where God then raised from the dead the one who takes away the sins of the world, setting us free to live as new creations, not just better ones.
And all of heaven rejoiced. And this day, as with any other day, all of heaven is waiting on pins and needles (much like we all were as Tiger sunk his last putt), to see your redemption story. Will you trust the one who is ready and able to write it?
May you have a blessed Holy Week.