Friday, October 2, 2009

Second Chances

Tuesday in the Chapel
September 29, 2009

(1 Samuel 13:13-14 NIV) [13] "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. [14] But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD'S command."

Lately I have been thinking a lot about second chances. Last evening I sat through a discipline hearing for a student and felt the old hope that the young person would be given a chance to try again. Living in a dormitory we often deal with students who need a second chance, but the voice in my head also lets me know there is little sympathy for bleeding hearts. “You always want to give them another chance.” it says.

This sentiment has come to the fore because of the conduct on at the national level by John Edwards, but the problem of bad behavior seems to be an occupational malady of public officials who seem never to note that their sense of invincibility is seriously compromised and they never seem to note the impact of their behavior on others. In Edwards case his attractive and dying wife stands out as do the images of his young children. And of course there is the other woman and the child resulting from their liason. I think I would prefer to shoot those who behave as he has, but I cannot. I hope he has a chance to live a long and redemptive life.

We also have stories that remind us such a life is possible for public figures. Such is the tale of Ted Kennedy. His story should be a gospel text for those who believe in redemption. For many of us his pubic career should have ended at Chappaquiddick. It didn’t. It could have ended after the incident in Florida with his nephew imitating his bad behavior. It didn’t. When he died the stories told made us realize his contributions to the story of our Repubic and we were forced to rethink his life. He was more than many of us thought as his peers and critics were quick to to tell us. He lived long enough to achieve public redemption that some only find in memory when the edges are worn down and the wounds healed.

In the Bible there are lots of second chances. King David stands out for his ability to lead a long and convoluted life that could be described as redemptive. Condemned by his own prophets, guilty of adultery and the abuse of power he came to be known as one who was beloved by God. His story is instructive.

The point is that his hard times gave way to hope and constructive actions. He was able to redeem his time. The Bible is a book of second chances and it is appropriate on this day after Yom Kippur that we give attention to clearing the deck and starting over. When I think of strategies for coping with hard times, difficult outcomes, hard decisions, the notion that tomorrow can be better than today is important. Equally important is the notion that we do not need to go into tomorrow bearing the sins and failings of yesterday.

Let us pray: God may we be wise enough to believe in second chances; strong enough to offer them to all.