“…His mercies never end. They are new each morning. Great is His faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22b&23 ESV
This week was a week of mulligans. It started on Tuesday getting a major attack at the office and not responding to it in a godly way. It continued at home and has just been a week of conflict and road blocks all around. Each day I wake up thinking it’s a new day with new adventures but it seems to end the same way as the day before. I’m emotionally raw and quite exhausted and there’s still three days left of this week. By Saturday I’ll probably just be operating on auto-pilot.
Some of you may be reading this wondering “What the heck is a mulligan?” In the game of golf there’s a concept called the mulligan. When you are teeing off, if you have a bad swing and end up hooking the ball, landing in a sand trap or who knows where you can choose to take a mulligan. Essentially, a mulligan is a do-over. Taking a mulligan erases the bad swing-it’s as if the hook shot never existed. Granted, mulligans are not part of the formal rules of golf but in a casual game mulligans can speed up the process by allowing you to avoid searching for a lost ball or chip repeatedly from a sand trap.
God’s word is filled with stories of mulligans. Abraham thought he had to manufacture his own miracle and created Ishmael with Hagar. But Ishmael was not the promised heir God had for Abraham. God could have told Abraham “Too bad so sad, you got in my way, now you’ll never get what I promised you.” But instead He corrected Abraham, protected Hagar and blessed Abraham with Isaac anyway. I know I talk a lot about Abraham but that’s because God uses his story a lot in my life. In a way, you could say I’m a cross between a modern day Abraham and a modern day Job.
My favorite example of a mulligan is Peter. Peter was one of Jesus’ beloved disciples. He walked with Christ faithfully throughout Jesus’ ministry. But when his life was threatened for believing in Christ, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. THREE TIMES! Every time I read this story I am mesmerized that someone who walked with Jesus, and saw His miracles first hand still doubted Him to the point that he denied knowing Christ. In all honestly, it makes me think I shouldn’t beat myself up so much when my faith is lacking. Our faith today is a lot more challenging considering the distractions and deceit this world is filled with.
Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. In fact, Jesus told Peter he would deny Christ three times. But Peter didn’t listen. He was so confident in his faith and devotion to Jesus that he couldn’t fathom ever denying Him. He also underestimated the power of satan to use our greatest weaknesses to fall from grace. The devil got Peter to fall through fear. Fear is probably the craftiest and one of the most compelling weapons satan uses to pull us away from God. When we fear-we doubt God. Doubting God turns our eyes away from Him and onto the object of our fear. For Peter, he feared death. Thus, after Jesus was arrested, he denied knowing Jesus in order to avoid death. He didn’t just deny Christ-he lied. One of Jesus’ right hand men, the one who literally walked on water with Jesus, lied about even knowing Jesus and being affiliated with Him.
Most people then and today reading about Peter might think he deserved to be shunned by Christ and dejected from the Kingdom of Heaven. And I would agree. Denying Christ was an awful choice Peter made. In fact (to quote a US presidential candidate) it was deplorable! In today’s day and age the media would have slammed Peter and verbally crucified him through ridicule, mockery and horrific judgement. He would have been condemned for lying and removed from ministry. He would have suffered great humiliation publicly.
What did Jesus do? After His death and resurrection, Jesus approached Peter and asked him if he loved Jesus. Peter said “yes.” Jesus asked him again. Peter again said, “yes.” Jesus asked Peter a third time allowing Peter to say, “Lord, you know that I do.” Why did Jesus ask him that and why did he ask him three times? It was the ultimate mulligan. In fact-it was three mulligans in one. Peter denied Jesus three times-Jesus showed Peter He knew Peter’s heart by allowing Peter to express his true love for Christ the same three times. Peter was redeemed and it was if his denial never existed.
Christ does the same for us today. There are choices we make that will bring a lifetime of consequences. But no matter what, we never get what we truly deserve. God’s promises of forgiveness, grace and mercy are His mulligans for every mistake we make. And He calls us to give mulligans too. When others offend us, He calls us to forgive them and offer the same grace He gives us instead of harboring a grudge and choosing to not forgive. He forgives every sin we ever commit. Like the Lord’s Prayer says, He forgives us as we forgive those who trespass against us also.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do but becomes easier if we remember that God forgives us. I can hold a long grudge. I’m not bragging by any means. It’s something I’m actually ashamed of. But when God gets a hold of me and reminds me of His grace and forgiveness for me, I am able to offer the same forgiveness to the one who hurt me. After, of course, I have a HUGE helping of humble pie.
I’m thankful for mulligans. I’m thankful for God’s promise of new mercies each morning. If you had a bad day today remember this-tomorrow is brand new. Tomorrow is God’s mulligan. Learn from your mistakes and don’t take each new day for granted. The best we can do is strive to be better tomorrow than we were today. Also, don’t live defeated. Feeling defeated and living defeated are two different things. Don’t confuse the two. A golfer who takes a mulligan doesn’t do so in a spirit of defeat. When he or she tees up again they do so with the determination to not make the same mistake twice and to swing better the second time around. In life we can do the same. If you screw up in life (and at some point, we all screw up), take a step back and examine what you did. Figure out what you can change and then take a mulligan. In your mulligan swing, don’t make the same mistake again. But know this-even if you do make the same mistake again, God’s grace is generous enough that His mulligans only stop when He calls us home to His kingdom.