JACKSON — Tiger Woods’ miraculous comeback last month at the Masters seemed like destiny. That’s because it was.
Americans love to watch the high and mighty fall from grace. Then when they are sufficiently humbled, we root for them to come back and redeem themselves in the face of all odds. Such is the story of Tiger Woods.
At his pinnacle, Tiger Woods was the height of human success and prowess. He had everything: fame, money, respect, even awe. And he had a confident, some would say arrogant, attitude to go with it.
Then it suddenly all went away. His lustful libido and selfish manipulation of women was exposed for all the world to see in great detail.
He was chased from his home in the middle of the night by his furious wife, who beat him with a golf club — the very instrument of his power. He became the laughingstock of the world. His endorsements dropped like a rock.
Then his golf game left him, fueled by mental and physical failures: first his knees, then his back. Countless surgeries ensued. He could barely walk, much less play golf. Making matters worse, he kept trying to play, embarrassing himself on the very golf courses he once reigned as king.
Bottom was his arrest late one night on DUI charges. His mugshot was displayed around the world with his balding, disheveled hair and the droopiest eyes in the history of DUI mugshots. It got so bad, many of us began to feel sorry for him. Imagine that. Feeling sorry for the great Tiger Woods.
It’s true he still had money, despite his expensive divorce. But in this age of material abundance, one’s pride and self-esteem is part and parcel of your self-worth. Basic understanding of human nature should tell us that he suffered more than he would ever admit. It had to be excruciatingly painful, spiritual and physical combined at its worst.
But he did not give up. He plowed on. It took years and years of persistence. Yet he did it. The joy on his face when he sank the longest 2-foot putt in golfing history — and the joy of the crowd — was proof that fall and redemption are still the greatest story of man.
I normally don’t write about national sports. There are many better writers than me covering these topics. But it seems to me every writer missed the essence of the story: God using people such as Tiger Woods to perpetually remind us of the most significant story in human history — humankind’s fall from grace and our ultimate redemption.
Adam had everything in the Garden of Eden. Yet in his arrogant desire to be like God, he ate the apple and was thrown into the harsh wilderness to fend on his own. Mankind suffered mightily and was humbled, only to be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ was worshipped as the messiah as he rode into Jerusalem. A week later he was beaten, scorned, nailed to a cross. Lots were thrown for his garments. He went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
And then came the redemption: The greatest redemption of all of human history. Jesus Christ rose from the grave, conquering death, carried in a perfected body.
How perfect that the redemption of Tiger Woods occurred one week before Easter. What a perfect way to get us in the Christian spirit of redemption. This was the hand of God creating a perfect display using one of the most famous humans of our age.
I know that Tiger Woods is a Buddhist, if that. But God has always used non-Christians to achieve his purposes.
The apostle Paul persecuted Christians before Jesus struck him down on the road to Damascus, marshaling Paul’s skills to the service of the Kingdom.
If we look into our own lives, each of us has suffered our own fall from grace. It may not be as monumental as Tiger’s, but it was still painful to us. And most of us have discovered that with faith and persistence, we can find redemption. The final product is a better person, humbler, kinder, gentler, more open to the power of the Holy Spirit.
From all accounts, Tiger Woods is a better person. He is less arrogant. He is more open to other players and the media. His character has been refined in the crucible of life, like steel is hardened by a flame.
That is why so many people were cheering and rooting for Tiger, even though many may not have been able to identify those specific emotions. We were rooting for ourselves. We were rooting for Jesus. We were rooting for mankind to overcome its fall from grace. We were rooting for redemption. In our heart of hearts, that’s what we all desire.
Did I mention this all happened the Sunday before Easter? Am I the only one who sees the hand of God in this?
Perhaps Tiger Woods will never see how every part of his life has been controlled by God. He was put here by God for this very purpose of renewing the story of redemption to Americans. Every hair on his hair was numbered even before he was knit in his mother’s womb. I pray he may one day see this truth.
Which brings me to my favorite Bible verse, Romans 5:
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.