April 11, 2015

A Lesson in Fatherhood From Tiger Woods

The commentator actually praised Tiger Woods in a backhanded sort of way, calling him “the second-greatest golfer of all time."

His homage on Sports and Music Talk,
a YouTube channel, was not grounded in some perverse joy that Tiger had yet to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins.

What thrilled him was “a different Tiger Woods” who instead of displaying golfing prowess had acted like a father on the golf course in Augusta, Georgia. For him, Tiger had shown that in a choice between golf greatness and fatherhood, “it’s more important to be a great father to his two children.”

Tiger was officially disqualified from the 2015 Masters Par 3 contest, a fun tradition that precedes the Professional Golfers Association’s first major golf tournament of the year, when he allowed his 7-year-old daughter, Sam, to help him play on Wednesday, April 8.

“You would never see this from the old Tiger Woods,” the commentator said, applauding Tiger’s decision to allow Sam to knock in a close putt as “a classy move.”

Tiger later tweeted, “I’ll always have memories of my pop at Augusta and now Sam and Charlie,” his 6-year-old son.

The sporting giant declared that playing with Charlie and Sam had given him “an amazing day.”

What is it about being a father that makes a man so different?

It’s the children, of course.

I remember looking at my months-old son as my wife tried to soothe the inexplicable grief that made him sob so much it broke our hearts.

“What makes us love him so?” I asked her during our midnight huddle several years ago.

It was — and is — a mystery to her, too.

But something about this mystery of parental love baffles me more as a father. After all, mothers bear babies in a miracle that fathers cannot replicate. Research even shows that a baby’s cells remain lodged in a mother’s brain after birth. Cells containing the “Y” male chromosome that are found circulating in women’s blood after pregnancy “most likely came from their babies during gestation,”
according to research published in the journal Scientific American. Even after delivery, a mother and her baby are never really separated.

But what’s the deal with fathers? What ties Tiger to his little ones? A fully satisfying answer always requires more than a physiological explanation, but its most compelling dimension may well be analogical. I’m thinking of the psalmist’s simile that joins fathers to deity: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:13).

Why is God so sensitive to us? An answer to the question is in the next verse: “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”

As much as anything else, loving fathers love their children because they know where they came from.

At times memories of my own childhood in Guyana made me want to smother my own children with protection — a desire that may be both commendable and a bit odd. True, I have wanted to guard them from pain and suffering. But by that very token, and in a rather awkward sense, I have wanted to save them from being or becoming me.

The God who is our Father isn’t trying to protect us from becoming like Him. He certainly isn’t afraid of being disqualified for letting us help Him play. In fact, He is keen to have us help Him because it’s the way He teaches us to become like Him.

We grow up into His beautiful image and holy likeness the more we are willing to speak for Him, act for Him, swing the clubs for Him, and to live His selfless, sacrificing life. It’s where we came from. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). And it’s where He is taking us back to. “It was His purpose that the longer man lived, the more fully he should reveal this image. … To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized — this was to be the work of redemption” (
Education, p. 15, 16).

We never need to worry about at least one thing. As God shows us the path of life, we will find nothing but fullness of joy in His presence. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

Our days in our Father’s company will always be amazing — even if they are not out on the Augusta greens.

Tiger Woods' daughter, Sam, putting at the 2015 Masters Par 3  in Augusta, Georgia, as her father watches on Wednesday, April 8.