October 31, 2011

Finding Hope in Second Chances

I thank God for second chances
To take this life and all its messes
To slow me down, and turn me around
And make something blessed.
(from the song “Second Chances” by Colleen Reske)

Have you ever said something and then immediately wished you hadn’t?  Wished that you could just suck the air back in and the words would come along with it, and no one would ever have heard them? It would be nice if it worked that way, but of course it doesn’t. Once those words have left our mouth, they are out there for the world to hear.

But usually it isn’t the whole world who hears. It’s one person, someone you care about, and you’ve gone and done it again. Blurted out a reaction to a situation instead of thinking through your response.

And all you can do now is apologize. Yes, apologize. Don’t backtrack, don’t make excuses. Simply look this person in the eye and say, “I’m sorry”, whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend or a parent. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but it does get easier with practice. (Am I giving myself away here?)

Several things happen when you offer up an apology. First, you are clearly admitting your frailty as a human being.  Also, you give the other person an opportunity to do something even greater, and that is to offer forgiveness.

Receiving forgiveness is like getting a second chance. You can mend your fences and move on. And now you have the opportunity to work on your new way of speaking. That is, to think before you speak; or, as my mother likes to say, “Engage brain before opening mouth.” I love that one!

God is the best at giving second chances. He gives us a do-over when we mess up. When we come to him in our disgrace and our shame, we are showing Him our human frailty (with which He is quite familiar). When we ask for His forgiveness, it is immediately given. What a gift! And even greater, He forgets about it.

As humans, we can offer forgiveness, but the truth is we can never fully forget. Our God doesn’t work that way. He wipes our slate clean, and in our freedom we are ready to go forward again.

Is this to say that we should never think about our words or actions? Of course not. The humans with whom we share our lives would not be as understanding as God.  We must be accountable to ourselves, while always striving to please God.

There is hope in second chances, and we must try live the way God wants us to live. And truthfully, that simply means doing the very best we can.

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