Redeeming Love

10 12 2009

One of the most amazing stories of personal redemption that I have heard of happened last Sunday in the final moments of the Grey Cup football game.  Perhaps you heard what happened – for those who haven’t, let me paint you a picture.

Imagine you are Damon Duval, the kicker for the Montreal Alouettes.  It is the final game of the season – the most important game of the season, and football fans across the country are watching your every move. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are ahead by one point, but here you have the opportunity to win the game and become the hero.  All the pressure has mounted up on your shoulders as the entire game has come down to this one, make-or-break kick.  The adrenaline is raging through your veins and you kick with all your might.

Only to watch it miss.  And you think it’s all over.

Imagine the disappointment, shame and humiliation you would feel.  Here, in the game of all games, you have not only let yourself down, you’ve let your coach down, you’ve let your team down, and you’ve let all your fans down.

At that moment it’s hard – maybe even impossible – to look them in the eye and say you’re sorry – the humiliation is just too intense.  The feeling of failure is too much and all you want do is run away and hide.  You would give anything to relive that moment and do it right the second time, but life isn’t like that – we seldom get second chances.

Sometimes moments in life can feel like that.  Even in this time of year, even in the Christmas season.  For some, especially in this Christmas season.  After all, during the Christmas season, there is a pressure for perfect performance – to find the perfect gifts; to make the perfect desserts, or meal; to have a perfectly decorated home; to have a picture perfect Christmas.  And when things go wrong, it causes feelings of frustration, disappointment and shame.

Maybe you had a moment of crisis had nothing to do with Christmas at all – some totally unrelated event that still seemed like the end of the world to you.  Everyone was looking to you, the pressure was on – but then at the moment when it counted the most, you completely blew it and let everyone down.

Or perhaps you made a promise to someone and didn’t follow through on it – you could have, but for whatever reason, you didn’t.  When you are on the guilty end – when you are the one that broke the promise, it can be so hard to turn back to the ones that we’ve hurt or offended.  It’s easier to just avoid them, to give up on that game.

We might try to tell ourselves that in time we will try to fix things, but not when it’s new and fresh.  The problem is that as time goes by and more water goes under the bridge, it feels harder and harder to turn back.  If something in your life feels like you’ve failed that make-or-break moment, and shame and discouragement haunt you, I have good news for you – the game isn’t over.  Perhaps that’s a bad analogy – I am not saying that our lives are just a game.  The hurts we feel and cause are real, but sometimes people feel like there is no way that they can go back and make it right.  If that’s what you are struggling with this morning, then here’s the great news.  There’s another chance.

Let’s go back to the field – into the mind of Duval…

As your mind starts to process the calamity of what has happened and what it will mean for the future – wondering how many fans will forever remember this failure, whether you will even have a career next season, something amazing happens – out of nowhere comes a second chance.

It wasn’t because of anything you did – it was completely unmerited by you.  It was not because the referees or anyone else felt badly for you.  Not that you would have tried, but no amount of begging would have changed this situation, but suddenly a whistle blows, and an opportunity for redemption is before you.  Not only just a shot at redemption, but it has been made easier as well.  You are determined to do better this time.  With focus and renewed optimism, you line up the kick, hold your breath for a second, then let it go and let fly with a beautiful, kick right through the goal posts.

Disappointment gives way to ecstatic joy!  The shame disappears as your teammates surround you with hugs – and pats on the butt – what is with that anyways? And you are swept up in the celebratory enthusiasm of everyone around you.  You’ve just won the game!

“Going into the (first kick), I just sped up a little too much and I thank the man upstairs that I got a second chance,” said Duval. “If we lost this game, I would have put this on me. But to come out in the second half and knock this thing through – I can’t even explain the feeling right now.”

One of the promises our world needs to hear is the promise of a better day, or of a second chance.  A second chance is not always something that is easy to come by in this world.  People can be sceptical, suspicious and cynical in the way that they treat one another.  When people are looking for a second chance it is often because they are often in need of redemption.

Redemption is a rare thing that seems hard to find.  It involves risk and the possibility of further hurt and more failure – for the one who needs the second chance and also for those who were let down by the previous failure or failures.  But in this Christmas season, we need to remember that Jesus came to earth to offer redemption for those who are lost in the depths of misery and despair.

If we are the one that has had that moment of crisis, then let me encourage you this morning – the game’s not over.  It’s not too late to turn back and ask for that shot at redemption.  But before you do, take some time to ask God to help you have the courage to follow through.

And for the rest of us, we have a present that we can give.  If we have been hurt, if we have been the victim of someone else’s failure, then through the strength and grace of God’s spirit in us we can – and we should – offer redemption for those who need it so badly.  It involves risk, it may not even work out like we hope, but for those who desperately need this second chance it could bring new life to those who desperately need it.

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