I just wanted to write and tell you that over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been praying for you. I have long admired your incredible skill as a golfer, your mental toughness and your commitment to education through your foundation. You’ve been on my prayer list as a world-shaping personality for a long time.
But, in light of recent events, I’ve been praying for you even more. I can only imagine the levels of pain, hurt, confusion, anger, shame, failure, fear and pressure that you must be experiencing. Those emotions resulting from your actions are, I’m sure, multiplied even more for your wife Elin and your family.
I have to try to imagine your experience, because like most people in the world, I don’t know anything about you first-hand. I have to rely on the statements you’ve made on your web site and then try to sift out the core truths from the sensationalistic voyeurism that marks so much of the press coverage of your current life situation. I have to imagine because you live in a world of fame, wealth and privilege I will never know. I generally have to use both of my names and a driver’s license to identify myself, and can walk through the Wal-Mart three blocks from my house without being recognized! You can’t… and I guess that’s what brings the longing for privacy and controlled access that you have so carefully cultivated.
But now, it must feel like that world has been turned upside down and inside out. Everything nailed down is coming loose. You have even chosen to step away from the PGA Tour for an “indefinite period”. Since the age of three, golf has been the constant of your life. Now the constant is gone. That must be terrifying. So, I am praying for you.
What am I praying? I’m praying that you will be able to continue and deepen the process you said you’ve begun. You said, “After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”
The key to this whole thing is in the third word: soul. Make no mistake: ultimately, this is not about golf and your legacy as one of the greatest players in history. It’s not about your economic impact on the PGA Tour. It’s not about the sponsors and whether or not they will maintain a relationship with you as their spokesman. It’s not about answering questions on Oprah or satisfying the occasionally insufferable Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated and a hundred ESPN wannabes. If I may be so bold, it’s not even ultimately about saving your marriage.
Ultimately, this whole thing is about your soul.
That’s probably what you’d expect somebody like me to say, but hear me out. Your soul is the most important thing about you. It’s the core of your being. It is the essence of “Tiger” beyond your public image, beyond “Eldred” that your mom and dad named you, and probably well beyond who you think you are. Your soul is who God created you to be. God is the source of your soul’s life.
And that’s the missing reality in all the billions of words of analysis that have been spilled about you in the past two weeks: God. Over all these years, I’ve never heard any mention of your faith, or religion or spirituality. Maybe that’s just something else you’ve kept private, but if ever you need to deal with God, this is the time. You’ll never become a “better husband, father and person” apart from getting the realities of God and your soul straight.
I know that maybe God is the last person want to deal with right now. Your gut instinct is that God is not pleased with infidelity. (You’re right, it’s one of the Top Ten) You used the word ‘transgressions” in an earlier statement, so you know that morally, you have stepped across a boundary line into penalty territory. You probably figure that you feel bad enough about it already, so why pile more guilt on top of it all by dealing with God? You know, better than anybody else, that you messed up and that you’re messed up.
So…welcome to the human race. All of us (including me) have messed up and stepped across God’s boundary lines. All of us (including me) are messed up at the soul level. God calls our mess “sin”. Call it infidelity, pride, greed, lack of compassion, anger, lying, pornography, selfishness or a million other names. It’s all sin.
The only difference is that our messed-up-ness just doesn’t make headlines around the world like yours. And in spite of what our sex-obsessed culture thinks, your transgressions before God are no worse than the sin of the most obscure person in Kentucky or Thailand or Sweden. Your sin is deadly serious, but it’s not unique. So, I really do wish some folks would get off their high horse of moral outrage over you, and stop acting as if this sort of sin is so unbelievable. Sin is who we are as human beings.
Now, let’s get back to the soul issue. Sin infects the soul—including yours. The infection is deadly; it kills the soul because it blocks us from our source of life – God. That sin-infection requires a cure that only God can provide. But you have to know you’re sick before you will seek a cure.
Here’s a different way to look at your painful situation, Tiger. Could it be that the discovery of the affairs, the rapid crumbling of your carefully crafted public image, the horrible tensions with Elin, the removal from the world of golf have all been what one person called ‘ a severe mercy”? Could it be that God is using all of this pain to drive you to Himself for the cure? Could it be that God has been incredibly patient and decided He could wait no longer to get your soul to the remedy?
It could be, because God is incredibly kind – even when his kindness feels harsh. One part of the Bible asks a tough question: “Do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom.2:4) It is very kind of God to press you in by these hard days, so that you’re drawn to repent. That’s more than just confession of wrong. To repent means to fundamentally change your direction, your priorities, your affections, your thoughts away from self and towards God. It’s a big deal. Could it be that all this is designed to bring Tiger to the end of Tiger?
That may be the most loving thing God could do for you. Why would I say that? Because your soul is so much bigger than you have been thinking. Your soul is bigger than golf and becoming a legend. It is more precious than the billion-plus dollars your accountants say you’re worth. Your soul holds the potential for more profound adventure than your competitive juices can fill. Your soul has deeper longings that no amount of sexual escapades will ever satisfy. Your soul is built for God and anything other than that will leave you flat, empty and dying.
How does God both cure and satisfy a soul? With Himself, and specifically with His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s really another letter for another day, but you just need to know this: “God shows His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the middle of your messed-up-ness, not your all-togetherness, God loves you. Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty for your sin—so you could be fully forgiven (for everything!) and have a clean slate to start over. That forgiveness comes free, not because you perform. You simply trust your soul—the essence of the real you—to Jesus.
And there’s even more. Jesus promises that everyone who comes to Him by repentance and faith will have His forever life. His powerful life will flow through you and change you from the inside out, from the soul into your attitudes, thoughts, actions, self-control, relationships, decisions and more. On your own, you can’t change you, Tiger. Nobody can. But with His power, you can really become “a better husband, father and person.”
That’s why the life and message of Jesus is called the gospel– which means good news. Like nothing else, it remedies the mess within us, changes the world around us—including our relationships– and gives us hope for all our tomorrows.
So, I’m praying for you, Tiger, and for the soul work you’re doing. I’m praying that you and Elin will repair your relationship and that you’ll enjoy a long and happy marriage together. Know that a whole bunch of us out here are pulling for you, no matter if we ever see you on a golf course again.
Grace and hope,