In a merciless culture, God offers second chances.
Confidently I stood, nine iron in hand, watching proudly as my golf ball landed on the green about 120 yards away and only inches from the hole. I spun around, in cocky teenage bravado, to face my only opponent, Ruth McCracken, and snickered, “beat that!”. My grandmother was a woman of intellect, strength, and a penchant for competitive golf with the talent to back it up. Even though I grew to be a pretty decent player, I never bested her on a course, which is why I was so thrilled that for once in my young life, I stood positioned to at least win a hole. Pulling her seven-iron out of her personalized bag attached to the back of the cart, she walked over to the tee, set her ball up, took a couple of practice strokes, addressed the ball, and whack. I watched with audible laughter as her ball hooked to the left and into the woods. I victoriously sunk my golf club into the bag and jumped into the passenger seat of the golf cart, waiting with baited anticipation for my grandmother to finish her walk of shame and meet me. As I privately gloated, about 25 feet from the tee, I heard another “whack,” and she proclaim, “well, look at that Tom, right next to you!”. Looking at the green, I saw that my ball now had a companion. “You can’t do that,” I said, “you’re not a cheater!” to which she replied, “Oh Tom, you have so much to learn about golf, that,” she said grimacing, “that, is called a mulligan.” My grandmother then hopped into the cart, driving in silence to the green, she walked over to her ball, putt in, and her record remained unscathed.
A mulligan in golf means a second chance. Usually, allowing a mulligan is discussed before the players tee off; nevertheless, my grandmother benefited from the game of golf’s only grace. I learned that day when a golfer has a horrible shot, leaving them in an unrecoverable position, they can call for a mulligan and reshoot-it is simply the adult version of the children’s “do-over.” In life, we don’t generally find such a concept. When we mess up, there never seems to be a lacking of people lined up to offer, “told you so,” or, “you made your bed, now lie in it.” Even in the house of grace, church folks have become quite proficient in judging, failing to remember that we all are in the same boat of sin, standing in need of a healing Savior.
When I was 21 years old, I sat on the back pew in a church in Massachusetts overwhelmed with the regret, guilt, and shame brought on by a life of mistakes and bad choices, thinking back to when life seemed simpler, wishing I could just call for a “do-over”-a mulligan. I don’t remember what the preacher’s sermon was for that day. I can’t recall the hymns sung or even the name of that church. What I do remember was hearing of a God that gave out second chances freely; a God that took me as I was and didn’t want to leave me where He found me. A God that knew and approved the use of a mulligan. So, that day, I went to the altar and asked that God for another chance; I repented of my sin, and Jesus Christ became the Lord of my life. My salvation story in golf terms? I had one too many shots into the woods, but Jesus allowed me a mulligan, another chance to surrender to Him. And while I have made some pretty sorry shots since, I have found Him to be present and patient and still willing to say, “Tom, take another mulligan.”
Friend, in this world, you will not find grace or mercy (John 15:18-25, Matthew 10:22, Romans 1:29-30), but please do not be discouraged, for the Father of Mulligans has overcome the world (John 16:33)! In a culture void of mercy, Jesus rises above it all, reaching out with nail-scarred hands, asking you today, “do you want a mulligan?” the question remains, are you ready for a do-over?
Scripture: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23, ESV)
Question: Are you tired of doing things your way and ready to take full advantage of the mercy and grace offered by God through Jesus Christ? Are you willing to take that eternal mulligan that will change your direction and destination?
Prayer: Father, I have been overwhelmed with the guilt and regret that comes from all of the bad decisions I have made over the years. I am crying out to you now, asking for another chance; fresh wind, extreme grace, overwhelming mercy, and undying love. I need you. Please give me the strength to be a good steward of a new chance, a new day, to live for you. Thank you for being patient with me and allowing me another opportunity to enjoy your faithfulness on the course of my life. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.