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GUEST COLUMN: Like a fetter

Deck Cheatham

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton.

The image holds firm in my heart. When a deep breath in my schedule allows me indulgence, my mind takes me to a simpler, more innocent day.

This image involves me, as a child, imagining living in first-century Judea, sitting and listening at Jesus’ feet as he speaks. I can hear his voice intoning gentleness and assurance. It’s the image of an uninterrupted faith. It captures me, but not for long enough. The phone rings, the world enters and I snap into the present. I exhale the years and lock my image inside. Time and responsibility demand my attention again.

My childhood was joyfully absent time and focus. Responsibility entailed taking out the trash and making up the bed along with Mom’s repeated reminders. The only constraints I remember were directives not to sit too close to the 3-channel TV and getting off the phone before the 3-minute “hourglass” was finished.

Childhood gives way to dreams and golf intervened at some point. When Lee Clark invited me to play, I was hooked. The game consumed me as time and focus became my companions. I knew after I struck the first pure golf shot, golf would be my life. I wanted to play golf more than anything else. So, I did. All else faded to dormancy, including the image I held so firm.

Everything slows in dormancy. As winter approaches, a plant’s photosynthesis and respiration rest, tired from a vigorous season. But more, the plant is preparing for a determined winter. Growth stops.

Plants are God’s creation, too, and if all is well, the plant has stored enough food to endure winter’s heavy hand. Humans and plants abide the same wintry indifference. My image would suffer from my own.

By our own choosing, and not, winter’s landscape comes. Its hand ushers us through hollows and over downs. Its glacial echo deposits on our psyche the scars from the burdened choices we made while we look back with regret. Only the dormant seeds of our faith wait and survive winter’s retreat.

Winter comes by the clock. And spring does, too. Temperatures warm. The sun rises in the sky and daylight stretches time. Growth begins anew. The dormant plant reaches for the sun, coming to life. Photosynthesis and respiration express themselves again. Flowers blossom. The sentinel tree on the down leafs out. Like a spring plant, blessing reaches toward light. Faith can work the same way.

My faith has survived placing golf first. These days, that Judean image held close reaches for light; and my long-ago innocence, seared by wisdom from life’s scars, finds a foothold in my perspective. Golf seeks dormancy now. Faith blossoms again.

It took years to see golf as a diversion from faith. After all, it’s provided a good life. There are worse pursuits. But wandering is wandering, and sometimes, blessing abides our winter.

“‘O Come, thou fount of every blessing, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.”

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.