Second Chances

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Practically speaking there are no free second chances in life.

During a golf game with friends one lady took her turn. As she teed up her ball, brought her club back up over her shoulder and came back down toward the ball something terribly wrong happened. Instead of solidly driving the ball down the fairway, her ball careened to the right, short of the fairway and plopped into a water hazard.

Maybe you don’t golf.

Perhaps you bowl. You step toward the pins, the ball grasped in your hand swinging smoothly back and then forward. As you release the ball instead of the smooth action that directs the ball to the strike-producing pocket the ball lurches for the gutter and utterly misses the pins.

Possibly you are not sports minded.

Maybe you bake. You read the recipe and carefully gather and measure all the ingredients. You skillfully mix the ingredients and carefully slide the pan into the oven. As you relax while your creation bakes you suddenly realize that you’ve waited too long. You have a burnt offering instead of a bake-off winner.

 You get the idea of what my friend who hit the errant golf ball felt. She wanted so badly to have a perfect drive and knew immediately that she had failed. She cried in comic disappointment, “I didn’t mean it.” “I didn’t mean it,” was all she said, but what she meant was, that isn’t the way I wanted it to go; can’t I undo that and do it again?

The rules of golf don’t allow free second chances. To hit the ball again from the tee you pay a penalty stroke. In a game of bowling there are no second chances. The best you can expect after a gutter ball is a spare if you knock down all the pins with your second ball. In baking you can bake a second pie or cake but that will not correct the first one that has failed.

 My life has been full of second chances – little ones and big ones. Some have had a penalty stroke attached and some have come only after I have learned through a burnt pie or a fallen cake. But sometimes I’ve been given a great big free second chance.

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Have you ever really screwed things up only to realize too late what you have done? Well I did once. Actually more than once if you want to know the truth. But this one time was a real lulu. I was full charge bookkeeper for a small company that was struggling financially. I disapproved of some of their tactics I got it into my head that I knew better than my boss or the owners of the company. I developed a real attitude. I was so self-righteous that I eventually gave them my notice with an explanation that I could no longer be a party to their misdeeds. I helped them interview and select my replacement. During my last week as I began training the new bookkeeper I attended an evening seminar that opened my eyes to my stinky attitude. My heart was broken at how petty and mean I had been. I longed for a second chance. I cringed at how long it might be before an opportunity to practice what I had learned would come. On Saturday I miserably thought about having left a job with coworkers who had meant a great deal to me. Sunday I received a phone call from my recently former boss. He said, “Connie, I think God wants you to come back. The new bookkeeper just quit.” I was amazed I had my old job back and a brand new second chance!

But it isn’t the most incredible second chance in my life.

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                There is not a time when I have not believed in God. Jesus Christ was real to me and I knew He had died on the cross for the sins of the world. I may have memorized John 3:16, 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. I believed that Jesus is God and rose from the dead. He loved me and I loved Him. At four and a half years old, on December 29, 1950, I learned that believing was not enough. My mother was listening to the Back to the Bible Broadcast. I don’t remember the program or even if it was their adult or children’s program. I heard the truth that each individual needs to accept God’s gift of eternal life. Until that moment I had an intellectual agreement with John 3:16. Now I realized I needed to make it personal. For God so loved Connie that he gave his only begotten son that if Connie believeth in him she will not perish but have everlasting life.

This idea was not too hard for my young mind. I understood and wanted to make that commitment immediately. Still, I wondered, was I old enough? I asked Mom and she assured me that I could complete this transaction. We knelt and I prayed that Jesus would be my Savior and give me everlasting life.

I remember very little of life in 1950. However, a ray of light shines on that day. I felt no strong transforming power. I understood little of what had taken place. As I look back, I am extremely grateful that God claimed me early. He began leading me that day on an incredible journey of second chances.

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                Mom says that after I accepted Christ as my personal Savior I very scripturally sang a new song. I might have been a new creature in Christ but I was still just a four-year-old. My new song was this. “He’s a Shepherd, we’re the lambs.” This song was correct. However, repeated over and over it was exceedingly singsong. Mom helped me with the lyrics and tune a bit and we had the song. “He’s the Shepherd, We’re the lambs.”

I loved the Shepherd of my life. Every program at church stirred my interest. I enjoyed Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Good News Club, whatever. I memorized Bible verses quickly and gladly. As I grew, I read missionary stories eagerly. Their commitment and sacrifice stirred my devotion for the Lord. I often thought I would like to serve God in that way. As a fifth or sixth grade student I promised God to serve Him as a missionary when I grew up.

During my growing up years something unknown to me had happened. My friends recognized me as different. I never realized this until I reached an age when to be different is so unacceptable. I was in high school. One day between classes a group of students was standing around chatting. Someone started to tell a dirty joke. How did we know it was going to be a dirty joke? Did they say, “Hey, listen to this dirty joke? Probably not. Nevertheless, we apparently knew because my friend spoke up and said something dreadful. She said, “Connie doesn’t want to hear that.”

Well, I didn’t. I would either have not understood the joke and been embarrassed or I would have understood the joke and been embarrassed. However, I did not appreciate being singled out by my so-called friend in front of the group.

If you had been observing my life, you would not have perceived a difference for some time. My friend who hit the bad golf ball knew immediately that something terribly wrong had happened. As soon as she hit the ball something felt wrong and she wanted to take it back. But when something terribly wrong happened in my walk with God I didn’t have a clue. My life continued and I went through the motions of a religious life. There was a big difference however. I chose to please friends and go with the crowd.

Sometime later I uttered a foolish thought to God. These are the exact words I used, “God, I don’t want to serve you now. I want to sow some wild oats and then I’ll get back to you.” Talk about dumb. I know I had memorized the verse that says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)

While I lived at home there was no noticeable difference. Then came college and living several hours from parents and church. By the end of my first-year I had taken on many habits of my friends. By the end of my sophomore year I was drinking and smoking heavily and I had to marry my boyfriend because I was pregnant. After we married, we lived in Baltimore for three years where my husband got a job and started night school to complete his college education. Alone in a strange city far from my family I experienced homesickness and heartsickness as I realized how far from God’s expectations for me I had gone.

Years before I had teed up the ball, begun my back swing and then as I brought the club back down toward the ball I had lost sight of the ball and it had gone terribly wrong. Now I wanted to cry, “I didn’t mean it, I take it back, let me do it over.” I cried out to God and asked for His forgiveness. I know He gave me His forgiveness. He promises that if we confess our sins He will not only faithfully forgive our sins but will also cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Yet He doesn’t do that by letting us go back to the tee and start over. He lets us begin again usually from the rough or the sand trap where we find ourselves.

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                I was in the rough. My husband had known me as someone who liked to party. I didn’t go to church or read the Bible or pray much. Now that I wanted to change he did not encourage me in my attempts to get back on the fairway. However, God did and slowly He drew me to Himself. Gradually there was less and less resemblance between the woman my husband married and the woman God was shaping.

After nearly sixteen years of marriage I was back in school. I was close to graduation and several classmates were discussing how to celebrate. I was seated between them and as they talked of a party of alcoholic drinks they completely ignored me. It was like they knew I wouldn’t be interested. God had given me a second chance to be different. I found myself back in the fairway!

As God worked in me during the years of my marriage I grew more faithful in church attendance. One of the regular yearly events at the church I attended was the missions conference. Over a week’s time several missionaries from different parts of the world challenged us to consider serving God. My old promise to God mocked me. I was married to a man who would not go to church let alone consider service as a missionary. Each year God lead me to realize that as He challenged others with yielding their lives to go and serve that I was to yield my life to stay and pray. I finally tearfully could totally let go of the hope that someday my husband would join me in the desire for a full time ministry. Still, I was totally unprepared for the next result of my spiritual growth and consequence of my foolish departure from God years before.

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                Overnight it seemed my husband had a loathing for me. He didn’t even want to be in the same room with me. There had been no argument. There was no discernable reason for his behavior. I wondered if I was losing my mind. Finally, I confronted him and he told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married to me any longer. After an agonizing couple of weeks, he confirmed that he wanted a divorce.

After what had been for me a good marriage I was devastated. I not only loved my husband; I was very dependent on him – financially, socially, emotionally. The pain of personal loss was compounded by the knowledge that my failure was affecting our three children. I was so wrapped in the cocoon of my pain that I wasn’t even able to be there for my son and daughters. When I hit the ball into the rough I didn’t know it would hurt me. Now I realized that my husband and our children were hurting.

During seventeen years of marriage I had not totally pleased my husband and I had not totally pleased my God. Now God was giving me a second chance to please Him. Now I could spend time reading and studying the Bible. Now I could spend sleepless nights in prayer and attend every church service. My new circumstances drove me to memorize Scripture again.

My motives weren’t entirely unselfish. I memorized 1 Peter 3:1-6 in hopes that God would work the right changes in me to save my marriage. I did many things then in hopes that God would save my marriage. It seemed that God must save my marriage because there was no way I could make it on my own. God saw through my ulterior motives and He used them to strengthen me so that with His strength I could make it on my own

A year or two after my marriage failed, I realized God had opened up areas of ministry. Several times I had spent hours counseling women who were struggling with their marriages. If I had still been married I would not have had the freedom to spend this time. Still later my pastor asked me to teach a ladies Sunday School class for women who were divorced or going through marriage problems. God was giving me a second chance to serve Him. I felt so blessed.

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                Then suddenly God uprooted me and moved me to the small community where my parents lived. My father was dying of cancer. I went to be with him during his last months and then to help my mother. My   plan was to return to   Denver where I had lived for twenty plus years.

However, God kept me against my will in La Junta. I struggled with accepting jobs for less pay than I would earn in Denver. I struggled with living with my mother. I love my mother but I had to adjust to living in her house, cooking in her kitchen. God waited patiently for me to yield to His will in all this. I didn’t know it but He was waiting to give me a tremendous second chance.

One thing I struggled with was going to my mother’s church. I wanted at least to be on my own in that area and yet God made it clear I was to stay put as a faithful, active member of Mom’s church.

As I did He opened up another ladies Sunday School class teaching assignment.  My pastor and his wife asked me to teach a class that included several ladies who were at least as qualified as I was to lead the class.  How was I to teach my mother who taught me how to teach?  How was I to teach my pastor’s wife who was a gifted teacher?  How was I to teach the lady who taught a Bible study and spoke at Mother Daughter banquets?  As I prayed about this I was sure that I wanted to teach and I was sure that God wanted me to teach.  Out of my understanding of the qualifications of these three ladies and others in the class God directed my style of teaching.  I actually did not teach but led the discussion of different portions of God’s word.  As I led this Sunday School class each lady taught me and I continued to grow.

One Sunday morning our pastor’s wife announced there would be a meeting to organize a crisis pregnancy center.  I was very concerned about abortion and felt a deep need to do something about it.  Nevertheless, years before I had tried protesting at an abortion clinic.  As we walked with our signs one day I saw the face of a woman entering the clinic parking lot.  Her expression spoke to me of the terrible pain she was feeling in making this choice.  I knew my presence added burden to her pain.  I knew then that protesting abortion was not what God expected from me.  Yet what did he expect?  I didn’t think that a crisis pregnancy center was it but I went to the meeting because Ruth Ann was really interested.  As the director from Pueblo explained the ministry aspect of a crisis pregnancy center I knew God intended that I should be the director for the Arkansas Valley Pregnancy Center.  However, I immediately doubted.  Surely others were more qualified.  And actually there were, but I was God’s choice.  In his infinite goodness, grace, longsuffering and love he has given me a second chance to keep that broken promise.  He has let me take the ball out of the rough and put it back on the tee.

I now work at a job with the job description that I lead each shift in prayer; help those who are in need with material things; communicate to those who have made the wrong choice about god’s forgiveness; share, as God leads, about His love and Christ’s gift of salvation.  God has made it possible for me to keep my promise to Him.

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God does give second chances.

God offers to us all the supreme second chance.  God created us in His own image to have fellowship with Him.  Because He wants true fellowship with us, not just a parrot’s babbling of empty praise and worship, He gives us a freewill—the ability and freedom to make choices.  He knew that meant the possibility of wrong choices and the need for second chances.

In fact, God tells us we all have made the wrong choice.  He tells us that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

God knows we all will need a second chance.  He tells us that the result—the wages—of our sin is death—eternal death—but he has provided through Jesus Christ the gift of eternal life.  He loves us so much that he gave us his only Son, Jesus Christ, and that whosoever believes in Christ will have everlasting life.

God waits many years sometimes to give us a second chance.  Nevertheless, He does not intend that we wait for this supreme second chance.  He says that now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.

For some of God’s second chances you may have to wait.  However, you can have salvation today.  Because you don’t know what tomorrow holds waiting is dangerous.  If you have not received God’s gift made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ don’t wait any longer.  You only need to believe in your heart that you’re a sinner in need of a second chance; that Jesus Christ died on the cross in your place and p the penalty for your sins; and that he rose again from the dead that you might have eternal life.

If you believe this, won’t you pray the following prayer.

Dear God, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sin keeps me from being with you.  Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die in my place and for paying the penalty for my sins. I want him to be my Savior and Lord.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

If you did pray this prayer tell someone what you’ve done.  Let me know. Please.

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