Hit and Miss

We have all heard or used the expression “hit or miss,” usually referring to one’s approach in attempting to hit a target or achieve a goal.  But have you ever recognized the possibility that one could hit the target, exactly as intended, and still not achieve the desired goal?

That point was driven home to me as I walked a golf course on a late summer evening several years ago. This particular course was set up with “marking poles,” in this case a red and white striped pole in the center of each fairway, 150 yards from the green, which was the target you could see from the tee box so that a golfer knew where to aim for a perfect tee shot.  As explained by one manufacturer:

On par 4’s and 5’s, place these Marking Poles in the center of the fairway, 150 yards from the center of the green. Players will appreciate the visual dimension they get from the tee in marking the center of the fairway, the 150 yard marker, the landing area and the contour of the fairway.

On this occasion, as I completed my approach shot to the green on the 18th hole and walked ahead to putt, I heard a loud metallic “ping” behind me.  I turned to see a golf ball careening from the center of the fairway into the water hazard on the right side, and realized that the poor fellow had indeed hit the perfect drive—exactly where he was aiming—and his ball still ended up in the water hazard.  It’s not unlike Tiger’s approach shot to No. 15 at the 2013 Master’s tournament when he struck the pin, and his ball ricocheted into the water, effectively costing him four strokes (including a two-stroke penalty for illegal drop) and probably the green jacket.

Missing the Mark

So what’s the takeaway?  To me, it is a reminder that in life, we can still miss the mark even with perfect execution, determined effort and the best of intentions. And not to belabor the obvious, but as one who has never hit the marker pole with a tee shot, I also realize that it is rare—extremely rare—that anyone ever pulls off perfect execution.

The Greek word ἁμαρτάνω, transliterated hamartano´, means literally “to miss the mark.” It is the word commonly used in the New Testament for “sin,” as in Romans 3:23 where we read “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Again, it is not a difficult concept for me to accept, recognizing full well that I fall short of even my own standards, let alone God’s. And if I’m dependent on my own intentions, execution, or efforts to hit the mark, no matter how sincere I might be, then I recognize I would be utterly lost.  So it is welcome news, indeed, that what is not true in competitive golf is the startling, central truth of the Gospel:  GRACE.  God offers us not the wages we deserve, but rather the gift that we don’t:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

To one like me, who is both a hack golfer and a deeply flawed and conflicted human being, this is the best news I’ve ever heard!