Please allow me some liberties here because I am not a golfer, but the idea of a “mulligan” has always intrigued me. As I understand it, a mulligan is a “do-over” or a “second chance.” How many of us would like to look back at this past year or even longer and say, “I wish I had a do-over?” Is it possible that a new year could offer the opportunity for a second (or third, and so on) chance to make healthier and wiser decisions? While we cannot erase decisions or events from the past, we can begin this new year by reevaluating some decisions to allow us to experience a brighter future.
We can celebrate that we made many choices that were healthy, positive, and pleasing to God. These good decisions are often lost in our guilt and shame over those decisions that were not as positive. Celebrate that God has given you another year to make new choices to bring healing and forgiveness to others and to give joy and peace to those we encounter. We can draw strength from God’s Word when we are told, “By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God.” (Romans 5:1)
As we leave the season of Christmas, reflecting again on the story can give us lessons for the new year. Mary and Joseph had been through much in their brief time together–a mysterious pregnancy–giving birth in a stable–the visit of the magi and the shepherds–the angel telling them that they could not return to their home. Now they were refugees in Egypt.
But through it all, they trusted God.
Life was not easy for them–and the worst was yet to come. Their precious baby son Jesus would die on a cross like a common criminal. Perhaps there were moments they, too, questioned some of their decisions and wished they could have had a “do-over.” We will have challenges, but we will also have victories in life’s journey. Look at the hope Joseph and Mary gave to the world because of their faithfulness!
Scripture gives us reassurance that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and awakens our hope for a new year because we do not have to live in fear of God’s judgment as we receive His forgiveness. The key to receiving a “second chance” is to let God transform us – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – by having a constant awareness of God’s unconditional, continuous, never-ending love for you. Stop for a moment, close your eyes, and envision God’s arms reaching out, embracing you, and lifting you up from the despair or frustration you may be experiencing.
As you begin this new year, take time to think of the ways you can make this a special new year by focusing on how you can spend more time with the people you love, demonstrate your faith through serving others, and deepening your spiritual walk with God. When you encounter “roadblocks” to your plans, consider that these obstacles may be God’s way of telling you to choose another path.
We cannot actually have a “do-over” because this life is not a dress rehearsal, and we must accept our past choices by learning from them and forgiving ourselves if necessary. We do not have to feel trapped in the past, but we can “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Rev. Dr. Lennie Howard has been a Licensed Professional Counselor for 32 years, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for 21 years.