Last week Tracy kicked off January’s topic with her post on the do over. I have the honor of carrying the baton this week. Look for Kim’s thoughts next week and our “secret guest” wrapping it up the fourth week. I hope this series is an encouragement to you.
Kids in the neighborhood gathered in the empty lot across the street on hot summer evenings after dinner. An idea for a game slowly formed with eight or ten of us milling around. Teams were picked, and we played until the indigo evening sky chased away the red-gold sunset—or until moms started calling kids in for the night. Football, softball, frisbee, tag—any game we played—all had one thing in common. At some point someone made a mistake, and no one could agree on what to do about it, so the always-awesome “do over” was given. Another play, one more swing, another throw—alive just a little longer.
The do over. You’ve got to love it!
My whole life now is based on my desperate need for a do over at one point. (Can you relate?) If you know my story, you know difficult relationships, pain, and heartache wore on me. Irreversible choices were made. Long term consequences from snap decisions were agonizing for awhile. Eventually something like a heavy judgment gavel landed hard in delicate, emotional circumstances. The reality of my mistakes became overwhelming. And the more I talked to people, it seemed no one agreed on what to do about it. In the end I had no idea what to do, and I hoped for a reprieve. But what I desperately wanted was a do over.
I knew one thing even then: there are things that are just wrong. The average, sane person guides their behavior by the Rule of Law in the region they live. The law of the United States where I live maintains a few threads of an immutable law. Some of us know the Ten Commandments from the book of Exodus in the Bible, but in any case, portions of that text are still recognized as reasonable laws for all people at all times in all places. Murder, adultery, stealing, and lying are still acknowledged and enforced in our legal system, for example. The God lover and Jesus follower should be aware of the whole passage (Exodus 20:1-17).
This is the very thing that overwhelmed me in a fresh way more than 20 years ago. Suddenly, I saw where I had broken that law because my infraction was so glaringly obvious. A simple little sentence kick started the whole thing: “For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of [breaking it] all” (James 2:10 CSB).
Ouch! I’d never read the whole of the Old Testament, but I knew “The Big Ten.”
The “five finger discount” at the store? The not-so-little-or-white lie? I couldn’t write these off anymore. Suddenly, it didn’t fit so comfortably in the “everybody does it” category. Guilty? Just one time was enough? Yes.
If only it had been nothing more than the little infractions! (Honestly, I think that’s why I never worried about it.) Compared to the worst in history…or my friends…or the mugshots in the Post Offices…. No one else’s choices mattered in that nanosecond. Just mine. My heart broke when I realized I was in way over my head. My choices broke the law I hadn’t understood and thought about.
Have you had moments like that? Suddenly you realize you’ve wronged someone, and you feel terrible. The consequences of our actions are sometimes only seen when we understand the impact it has on others. For me, it was the cost another paid for my preference for convenience and comfort. One of the few times the ugly cry left a nearly indelible mark on my heart. Actually, I hope I will always remember that one for the bittersweet tears.
But God. (Two of my favorite words in the Bible anywhere it shows up!)
God, the Holy One who gave that law for our good (to reveal our sin against Him and our need for forgiveness), speaks sweet words to us when we are desperate.
“Come, let us discuss this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 CSB
I’m not sure there are sweeter words that can be whispered to our souls. How precious that we can see a light at the end of our dark tunnel! The Lord never ignores reality: we’ve really offended Him with our sin. When I’m in that hamster wheel of regret, or when I am reminded of a past I wish I’d never walked, this verse is a reminder of the truth, love, and power of my God. It’s easy to see painful choices as something like a scarlet letter sewn to our clothing, but there is a love that transcends those decisions and actually replaces that red stain with a brilliant-white righteousness from Jesus.
Ah, that’s the beautiful offer of a do over, friend. The difference is that the neighborhood kids don’t judge the situation and agree to grant it. You don’t get to award it to yourself either. It is, however, free for the asking. If you need a do over, it’s as simple as going to the One who wants to lavish one on anyone who wants it.
Do you need a do over? Do you want one?
Sometimes we ask for the first time ever. Sometimes we need to ask for the hundredth time in a day. I’ve been in both places, and I’d love to tell you I’ve reached the point of asking less often for the do over, but I find my sensibilities and sensitivities mature. I know I will hurt others and Jesus with my decisions. There are times I’m not aware even still, but I hope God will continue to sharpen my perception and strengthen my resolve to choose differently.
Do you have questions about the first-time-ever do over? Let any one of the Facets know. We would love to talk about that!
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