With a swift but steady swing of the club, Tiger Woods captured America’s attention once again this weekend with his first Master’s win since 2005. Crowds erupted in cheer for the fallen-from-grace athlete.
Iconic photos from the event captured Tiger in celebration and crowds of fans with mouths agape in cheer, fists turned to the sky in a celebratory expression of success.
To an unknowing onlooker,Sunday’s victory could have represented a life untainted, but those who know Tiger’s story know it certainly wasn’t a redemption story that was easy to come by.
You may remember the scandal that engulfed Tiger’s life more than a decade ago when his personal demons overtook his career, family and identity. Tiger’s fall from the public’s high-reaching pedestal happened quicker than his final stroke at hole No. 18 on Sunday, and the time it took for the public to forgive and redeem Tiger would span more than a decade.
In fact, Tiger garnered only a 19 percent favorable rating in 2013, when a Forbes study found him to be the third most disliked athlete in America.
Alongside the rise and fall of Tiger’s story, in which we see once again how people fall in love with an underdog,Tiger’s weekend success asks us to consider how we forgive and how we redeem.
Similarly, in my women’s literature class during the past two weeks, we’ve been studying another scandal of forgiveness and redemption, but in novel form. “Beloved” tells the fictional story of a former slave, Sethe, who intentionally kills one of her children, and nearly kills another, in an attempt to protect them from the inhumanities of slavery.
The novelist,Toni Morrison,asks the reader to consider, among many other things, how we forgive someone who made deep sacrifice, selfless but selfish at the same time. Selfless because she seeks to save her children from the miseries of the world. Selfish because she’s taking the life of another for her own relief.
In the wake of her unthinkable actions,which Morrison asks us to consider justifiable, Sethe finds herself haunted by the ghost of one of her children. The haunting steals her joy, physical health and emotional stability — just as Tiger found his career, family and identity haunted by his mistakes.
In two tales that seem on the surface so different, both protagonists fall from grace, and the reader of the story is asked to forgive and redeem these complex characters.
While last weekend served as the intersection of these two scandals of forgiveness — Tiger finishing the tourney as I simultaneously finished the novel — I found myself with a deep-set entrenchment, nearly impossible to shake, of questions and contemplation.
How do we offer forgiveness to someone’s actions that seem selfish and unthinkable? Is there a difference between forgiving and redeeming someone? Can we forgive Tiger but not redeem him? Can we forgive Sethe but not redeem her? Can we forgive ourselves when we’re haunted by our past?
I take solace,however,in the near impossibility of answering these questions because this weekend offers reflection on another story — another scandal of forgiveness and redemption.
As Jesus uttered his final words on the cross, scandal erupted throughout all of history — past, present and future.
In his crucifixion and resurrection, which we celebrate this weekend, Jesus meets us at our place of deeply entrenched questions and contemplation about forgiveness. He meets us at our place of questioning ourselves and our own forgiveness.
With his head bowed and spirit abandoned, he reminds us he has taken our doubt and worry with him in the ultimate act of forgiveness. He meets us in our place of doubt with three simple words.
“It is finished.”