Sometimes things really go awry, don’t they?  And we wonder…how could I have done that?

I’m reminded of the rather hilarious story of a young guy who lived beside his girlfriend who was sunning herself in the backyard one afternoon.  He decided to watch her and bought some helium balloons which he tethered to a lawn chair.  He planned to elevate himself a few feet above the neighbourhood.  But when he released the ropes holding him down, his lawn chair shot up…and kept going up.

He had brought along a pellet gun to shoot out the balloons, but when he kept rising, he panicked, held on with both hands for dear life and just kept going up.  Finally, he levelled out.  The story told by a California news feed said that a pilot of a commercial jetliner coming in for a landing radioed his control tower and said, “You won’t believe what a see below me.  There’s some guy sitting on a lawn chair.”  He was at 3,500 feet above ground!

This true anecdote has always stuck with me as a living metaphor for the wrong steps we can take in life.  And sometimes we may wonder if our wrong steps just lead to a dead end with no second chances.

Like the young boy who was called out of the spectator NBA basketball stands at half-time and given the one-time opportunity to sink a basket for a $1 million prize.  He stepped up, released the ball…and watched it rim out.  The TV camera zoomed in on his dejected face as the official who told him, “Sorry son, one shot and that’s it.  You missed.”

No second chance.  The Bible is full of leaders who made wrong steps, who blew it big time, and I’m sure wondered, “Is there a second chance for me?”

Jonah – called by God to preach to the great city of Nineveh, but he gives God the finger, takes off in the other direction…only to be vomited up on dry land after 3 days in the whale’s belly.

David – God’s chosen favourite who hears the Prophet Nathan accuse him before God of being a notorious sinner, after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her warrior husband.

Peter – Jesus’ very close friend.  But when the heat was on, he folded, turned tail and ran in the face of the tough test of loyalty.  He wept bitterly, no doubt wondering if there would ever be a second chance for him.

What about you?  Ever wondered if you have run out of second chances with God…if he has disenfranchised you?  If he has freeze-framed you in your mistakes, your failures, your sins?

Here’s a story to encourage you.  It’s about Roy Riegels and his now infamous wrong-way run in the 1929 Rose Bowl college football game…the most famous blunder in all of college ball.

Near the end of the first half, Roy recovered a fumble for California playing against Georgia Tech.  But he got confused and started running 65 yards the wrong way when a teammate finally tackled him 5 years from his own goal line.  Everyone wondered what Coach Price would do with Roy in the second half.

The men filed off the field into the dressing room.  Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders and sobbed.  When the signal came to start the second half Coach Price simply said, “The same team that started the first half will start the second.”  Riegels didn’t move.  “Roy, didn’t you hear me.”  Price said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life.  I’ve ruined you.  I’ve ruined the University of California.  I’ve ruined myself.  I couldn’t face that crowd to save my life.”

Then Coach Price went over to Roy, put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder, and said those inspiring words, “Roy, get up and go on back in…the game is only half over.”  When I read those words I say, “What a coach!”  When I read the stories of Jonah, David and Peter, I say “What a God!”

We take the ball of our lives and we run in the wrong direction.  We stumble and fumble and fall and are ashamed.  And then God comes to us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, and says, “Get up, go on back in.  The game of life is only half over.”

With Jesus, there is always a second chance…a second chance for David to be forgiven, a second chance for Peter and restored fellowship, a second chance for Jonah to serve.  Don’t you just love that picture when God lifts Jonah up, dusts him off, and resets his ministry to the Ninevites with these amazing words of grace,

“Then the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.”  (Jonah 3:1)

 God is never in the business of writing people off.  He is always in the business of second chances.  He never turns to us and says, “Sorry, one shot.  You missed.  That’s it.”

When Jesus heard the thief on the cross pleading for a second chance with his plaintiff cry “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” his response was not a stiff arm of rejection, but an amazing declaration that he was in the business of second chances…

Today you will be with me in paradise.”  (Luke 23:43)