“To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen! I never thought he’d get back physically… But he did. No one expected him to be back the way he is now…to me that’s a major accomplishment. To me it is unbelievable. Mentally, you can always think you can, but you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with…”
Michael Jordan spoke about Tiger Woods’ win at the Masters last Sunday to The Athletic’s David Aldridge.
The context? The win at Augusta against all odds. Tiger Woods was positioned 1,199 in the world’s global rankings in 2017! That was the year that he was arrested for having multiple drugs in his system and sleeping in his car in a traffic lane.
His personal life had imploded after he had transformed the world of golf with Master’s wins in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005. He had serious injury which necessitated surgery four times, and which threatened his ability to walk. But he is back!
As Michael Jordan says it, ‘he had to change his game’ but he quickly adds, ‘[Woods’ opponents] got problems. His confidence is only going to build from here’.
Let us not fool ourselves. Woods had to earn his welcome at Augusta back in 1997. It was only seven years before that the course opened to black members. But when things went south, those celebrated him originally were not feting him.
As he reportedly told his then caddy when things went awry, “Got to play it for myself”. When he broke up with the caddie, Jordan was livid and had choice words for him about the life he was living. It seems that losing your earnings is more than losing your wife.
We all have to face that moment of truth. What do we do when things get tough? Charles Barkley, at the same time of the break up, had some different words for Woods, “Who is around this guy, who has his back, who has his best interest, who does not want anything from him?”
He further mused, “…you need to surround yourself with good people who are not going to kiss your … and tell you what you want to hear, who are always going to be honest…”
It is not what you are going to do, it is who is in your corner. Plain talk, bad manners as we say in La Trinity.
Pontius Pilate was also in a jam: he had the legal power, but the religious leaders had boxed him in. They told him that Jesus was a criminal and urged that He be killed for rebellious behaviour.
Twice, Pilate told them that he found no fault in Jesus, yet he had Jesus beaten and dressed up like a bobolee. The pressure still piled on—the religious leaders wanted more. They turned the screws and threatened his job. (How small, petty and intolerant God appears in the hands of religious power!) How dangerous life is when the power structure is threatened.
Jesus frightened the priests, who had their feet on the necks of the poor. They had to get rid of Him. They did not want to do the dirty work of ridding themselves of him, even though Pilate initially urged to take care of their own business.
As we have seen in our own country, the mix of religion and politics is toxic. To break up the stranglehold of toxicity is what Jesus’ time on earth was about: ‘to preach to the poor, heal the broken hearted, set captives free, give sight to the blind and to set at liberty those who have been bruised’.
Pilate rejected the advice of his wife, the one person who had his interests at heart. He did not focus on what he thought was right but focused on appeasement. That seldom works, so the rest is history. He crucified Him but then had to watch the tomb in vain.
What does this have to do with us at Easter time 2019?
When we find ourselves in a crunch, we need to stop. Stop trying to please everybody. Ask yourself the questions Barkley asked. Learn the lesson Mahatma learnt:
“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
Easter represents restoration. A leap of faith to a new life and way of thinking. The assurance that we do not have to abandon ourselves to despair. But we have to jettison some things to grab the new.
As your mother or your Granny would have said, ‘friends does take you, they do not bring you back’.
Be assured that God is not a petty, intolerant person. He gives second chances and does not reproach. Consider this.