One of the worst ways to live is living with regret. The kind where people spend their lives focused on “woulda’s” and “shoulda’s” and “coulda’s.”
For example, “I wish I woulda kept that appointment I decided to cancel,” or “I shoulda spent more time with my children when they were young and less time working,” or “We coulda bought that other house, instead of this money pit.” Most times poor decisions aren’t make or break. We reconsider them, shrug our shoulders, and then move on. But sometimes we dearly wish we could have a “do-over,” or as golfers call it, a mulligan.
I think golf is unique in that respect. When I was playing tennis regularly, I don’t recall anyone offering me a “mulligan” if I made a bad serve or hit a crucial return past the baseline. The same holds true for virtually ever other sport. Except, I suppose, for fishing where the fisherman will sometimes make a catch and then, after admiring the prize, mercifully toss it back into the lake. Have you ever given a mulligan to a mackerel?
Frankly, this concept of being given a chance to do something over is one of the most appealing aspects of biblical faith. We find it repeatedly in both the Old and New testaments. In Exodus 34 we see an example that’s kind of humorous.
After receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Moses had descended from atop Mt. Sinai only to find the Israelites hooting and hollering around a golden calf they had fashioned into an idol for worship. In a fit of anger, Moses smashed the stone tablets at the foot of the mountain, breaking them to pieces. It’s not recorded, but I believe he must have quickly uttered, “Oops!”
Not long afterward, Moses climbed back up the mountain, probably red-faced. Instead of saying, “What the heck was that all about?” God simply instructed Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke” (Exodus 34:1). It’s like the Lord was telling the feisty leader of the Israelites, “Okay, let’s try this again. Only this time, can we avoid smashing the tablets?”
During Jesus’ trial prior to His crucifixion, impetuous Peter had – as Jesus predicted – denied the Lord three times. So after His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” and each time Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15-23). The disciple had blown it big time, betraying the Son of God repeatedly, and yet Jesus was giving him the biblical equivalent of a mulligan.
And the apostle Paul, who’d been zealous in his role of leading the opposition to the growing legion of Christ followers, never forgot how graciously he too had been forgiven and redeemed. Like all who humble themselves and receive Jesus into their lives, Paul had been given a spiritual do-over he described this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, no need to dwell on your past.
Do you ever find yourself wrestling with woulda’s and shoulda’s and coulda’s? God won’t alter what’s already transpired, but He offers a second chance, a do-over. If you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend you take Him up on His offer!
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.