Seventy-three. That’s the number of times Sergio Garcia had entered the field in a PGA major and failed to win.
Five. That’s the number of feet that stretched out between Sergio’s ball and the cup on the eighteenth green at Augusta National.
One. That’s how many strokes Sergio would win the tournament by if he could sink the birdie putt.
Two. That’s the number of putts it took Sergio to sink his ball on the eighteenth green, forcing a sudden-death playoff with fellow tour member, Justin Rose.
It was at this moment on Sunday afternoon the Twittersphere roared to life with memes and .gifs all related to choking in some form or fashion, many alluding to Sergio’s statements from only 5 years prior in which he said, “I’m not good enough … I don’t have the thing I need to have. In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second- or third-place.”
Do you ever feel like that? I know I have. Sometimes we face things in life that seem insurmountable, and no matter what we do we just cannot seem to rise above it and claim our victory. But as I sat glued to my television set on Sunday evening, watching a bunch of men take metal sticks and hit little white balls into holes cut into the grass I was reminded of something life-altering: failure isn’t final.
(For those of you that are golf fans, you know how this story ends, but please humor me for those that aren’t.)
Many had given up on Sergio, expecting him to choke this one away like he had so many times before. But when Justin Rose hit his tee shot into the pine straw beyond the rough off the right-hand side of the fairway, that opened the door just a crack for Sergio who striped his drive right down the center cut. With a terrible lie and tree limbs in the way, Rose was forced to punch out of the pine straw, laying two nearly side by side where Sergio’s tee shot rested. As cool as the underside of the pillow, Sergio hit a magnificent approach shot landing the ball mere feet from the cup, flinging the door wide open and ultimately giving himself an opportunity to two-putt for the outright win of the 2017 Master’s and his first-ever major championship. But it would only take one, as he holed-out for birdie, quieting his nay-sayers–including himself–and finally laying his demons to rest.
His failure wasn’t final.
Consider Peter, a committed follower of Christ and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. If there’s a common thread woven into the narrative of Peter’s life it was that of failure. In Matthew 14 we see Peter, though having the courage to step out of the boat and onto the sea in an attempt to walk on the water, sinking in the waves and crying out to Jesus for help. FAILURE. In Matthew 16:23 we find Jesus reprimanding Peter by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.” FAILURE. In Matthew 18 Peter is reprimanded by Christ once more for cutting off the ear of a Roman centurion. FAILURE. In Matthew 26 we read how Peter denied his association with Jesus three times on the night of Christ’s arrest. FAILURE.
But despite all of this failure we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18 where he says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter’s failure wasn’t final.
And your failure doesn’t have to be final, either, but the choice is yours. You can throw in the towel and give up, considering your cause hopeless. Or, you can keep plugging away, failing forward, pressing on until you achieve your victory. Your past doesn’t matter, nor does it preclude you from being used of the Lord. The only thing that matters is how you choose to live from this day forward.
Will it be easy? Nope. And I think both Peter and Sergio would agree. But I also believe that they’d both agree that even though it won’t be easy, it will be worth it. So be encouraged, and keep on keepin’ on. Your failure isn’t final.