(WARNING: This post deals with the sensitive issue of sexual abuse.)
I have the classic love/hate relationship with the game of golf.
The love part comes from the deepest confines of my imagination where I visualize myself hitting each shot perfectly. That combined with a crisp spring morning, an early tee time and a brand-new box of Taylor Made golf balls.
The hate part comes in right after the first tee. My usual score is that of the typical bogie golfer– however, there was one glorious day when the Lord saw fit to let me shoot my first and only round under par.
My son Eli was with me at Rolling Green Country Club in Sarasota, Florida when I put it all together and fired a 69 a few years back. What a day! No Mulligans, no foot wedges, no friendly rolls.
However, the last weeks was the first time I golfed in about two years. A back injury kept me from being frustrated all last year, and my writing has demanded a majority my time this season.
I’m a true hacker. The best part of the game for me was spending time with friends and my sons and entertaining the notion that my next round was going to be “the one.”
I recently spent some time with someone who is definitely not a hacker. Tracy Hanson was a four-time All-American at San Jose State University and played several years on the LPGA circuit where she banged in seven holes-in-one.
She was recently inducted into the Athletes in Action Hall of Faith at the annual Night of Champions ceremony in Xenia, Ohio.
Her hatred for the game was not due to her lousy play, like mine. Her disgust came from another source.
She despised performance.
She won her first trophy when she was 10. She saw quickly that winning earned her points from her father.
Recognition and adoration from her dad fed her desire to play. Tracy continued to win on the Links, and this provided a false sense of love and acceptance from her father.
The better she performed, the more she won, the more she was accepted.
Tracy was not addicted to any drugs or alcohol or fame – she was enslaved to performance.
Golf was her vehicle, and it landed her a spot on a college golf roster. She won 11 individual awards and played on an NCAA National Championship Team.
But it was on the long drive to San Jose from her home state of Idaho where she met the Lord as her Savior. She found comfort in Christ, although she was confused. This was due to the fact that the very person who began the discussion about God with her was someone who sexually abused her.
“It was their way to control me,” she said to the crowd at the Athletes in Action Hall of Faith Induction at the Night of Champions. “But I know now that I am a survivor.”
She didn’t realize the extent of the abuse for nearly two decades, because she used the addictive power of performance to mask what had taken place. She needed approval and acceptance, and golf provided the blanket.
Doing well on the course and in the classroom numbed the pain she felt from years of exploitation.
“Over time, it got unbearable to the point I could not take it anymore,” she said. “I felt shame toward myself.”
Toward the twilight of her professional career, her game started to fade.
“I was on a mental and emotional breakdown,” she said. “I was working hard on my game and wasn’t seeing the results.”
No results meant no performance. No performance meant she had no place to hide from the earlier sexual abuse.
“Everything unraveled,” she admitted. “I lost my joy, my heart, my desire and I hated the sport. I hated golf.”
But how could she talk about the issue? A Christian athlete has standards, she thought. “I’m not supposed to speak about the bad things in life – only the good things, right?”
She was concerned with public reaction and perception.
Tracy was in the tall rough with a tree in front of her and no shot at the green.
That is when she played a Mulligan. She gave herself permission to recover. God sent three women into her life who encouraged her to break the silence and expose the evil and destructive power the shame of abuse had on her life.
After she confronted her past, the chains were broken, and she was set free. She didn’t have to perform anymore. God and her friends accepted her as Tracy.
Now her ministry encourages others who may have gone through similar experiences and are held hostage by feelings of shame and guilt.
Tracy knows firsthand how addicting the drug of performance can be and stresses the only way to have true freedom is through Jesus Christ.
I don’t like what she went through, but I love how she has emerged victorious.
Sexual abuse is a much-too-common occurrence. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, about 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported. There were 62,939 cases of child sexual assault abuse reported in 2012, and 9.3 percent of maltreatment of children in 2012 was classified as sexual abuse. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Criminal Victimization Survey in 2012, there were 346,830 reported rapes or sexual assaults of persons under 12.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reported that one out of five women will be raped, and one out of 71 men will be raped.
If this has happened to you, please don’t be angry with God. Tracy found the Lord and knows He is the only way to deal with this terrible issue.
There are a couple of things I’d like you to know, even though I have never experienced sexual abuse.
• It’s not your fault: Never let anyone tell you that you had it coming. Scripture deals with this issue; But if a man finds a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her; then the man only that lay with her shall die. DEUTERONOMY 22: 25 KJV
• You are not alone: The Master knows pain and suffering and has vowed to carry your load. And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God, seest me, for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? GENESIS 16: 13 KJV
• Know that you are important: God proved this when He sacrificed his own son for you and me. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. JOHN 3: 16 KJV. YOU MATTER!
Chains of sin can be broken, and you can connect on that 14-foot birdie putt. Depend on God to read the green and then trust your stroke.
Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us. PSALM 2: 3 KJV
I am a better person for meeting Tracy and hearing her story. She has inspired me. She also told me she finally enjoys the game because there is no demand to score under par and no expectations for bringing home a trophy. It’s fun again.
Now, if she can only help me tamper down my hook.
Let me know your thoughts on this post.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His first book — BUCKEYE BELIEVER - 40 Days of Devotions for The Ohio State Faithful —can be purchased on Amazon.