A few days prior to my recent vacation I received a phone call from my brother-in-law. He wanted to know if I was interested in playing a round of golf with him while my wife and I were visiting. A bit rusty from three years of course inactivity I hesitantly agreed.
I say hesitantly because you must understand that my brother-in-law is the Lt. Joe Friday of golf. Just as Jack Webb deadpanned his way through several seasons of straitlaced, “by the book” law enforcement on Dragnet, my brother-in-law conducts himself on the golf course in a similar fashion. In other words, play by the rules and only the rules. Cheating is not tolerated, no questions asked. I on the other hand like to play the course with a wink and a nudge.
As the days approached to our big day on the emerald greens and fairways, I became increasingly nervous. My only previous golf outing with him, while not a negative experience, was far from being positive. In fact, I still have vivid memories of his skeptical, furrowed brow stare as he recorded my “scores” on his sweaty, rumpled scorecard, even now, eight years later.
I needed help and fast. Determined to play my game within the boundaries of golfing decency, I turned to the one person on this earth who could keep me in line, or at least on the fairway: my wife.
Besides, I figured it was a great way to spend quality time with her while enjoying the natural beauty of Gods magnificent creation. Even better, she would hold me accountable for my actions. Fully aware of my last visit to the links with her brother, she agreed to go along and actually play.
Before we continue this tale, just let me say that while my intentions were good I was soon to realize that I had either made a terrible mistake or I truly was the biggest liar on the face of the earth.
My problems began on the very first tee. Following a short but accurate drive by my wife, I stepped up to the tee box with great confidence, for today was the day I would play by the rules and only the rules.
I felt an incredible sense of virility and power as the ball left my club and climbed into the sky with little resistance. I watched in awe as the little white, dimpled, sphere arced majestically into the wild blue yonder …. and careened off a tree before bounding into the woods. I stared into the distance wanting to shout the magic M word that would make everything better but I couldnt. If I did the entire outing would be a bust. Breaking from my temptation filled trance, I turned to find a reassuring “you will hit it better next time, honey” shrug from my wife. With a sheepish grin on my face, I turned the other way to face my brother-in-law. He returned my grin with a furrowed brow that would make even the Grinch jealous.
I couldnt take it any more. “Mulligan! Mulligan! Mulligan! I will take a Mulligan.”
For those of you scoring at home, a Mulligan is the chance to replay your last shot penalty free. However, it is not within the actual rules of golf.
Embarrassed by my sudden outburst, I apologized profusely to both my wife and brother-in-law, promising that it was my last Mulligan of the day and that such behavior would never happen again.
How many times in the history of mankind have we heard that one? You know what I am talking about. That moment when a person commits a sin, feels guilt and shame because of it, and then makes a promise to God that it is the last time it will ever happen.
Needless to say, the remainder of my day on the links was nothing more than an exercise in golf futility. Despite three holes of Mulligan-free golf, holes five, eight, and thirteen featured waterlogged Mulligans, while numbers fourteen and seventeen showcased Mulligans of the sand variety.
Despite a desire to play a Mulligan-free round of golf, I had managed to ring up six without even realizing the error of my ways. I felt miserable, hopeless, even at the depths of pitch and putt despair.
On the ride home I became more and more obsessed with my inability to play by the rules. I had approached the round with confidence, promising myself that this day would be different than all the other times. Yet when faced with the temptation of taking the easy route to a respectable score, I jumped, no, I leaped at the opportunity. What I perceived would be a wonderful opportunity to play a game I love in the great outdoors with family had turned into a car ride of second-guessing.
As Christians, our walk with the Lord is fraught with Mulligans. Despite our continuous desire to sin, God is always willing to give us a second chance free of charge. All we must do is ask for His forgiveness.
The Old Testament story of Joseph illustrates this point quite well. In Genesis 45:1-15 we find Joseph, now a highly respected official under Pharoah, revealing who he is to his brothers who had sold him into slavery as a boy. When his brothers realize it is him they are overcome by guilt and shame for their sinful ways. They were reminded of all the pain and suffering they had not only caused Joseph but also their father Jacob.
But how did Joseph respond to them? He could have easily had his brothers put to death, but instead he responded with loving forgiveness. He says in verse five, “Dont be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.”
Likewise, if we have sinned and feel a sense of guilt about it, we need only confront God with a confession of our sins. He will always forgive us. We must concentrate our entire being on His son Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins.
So, what is the moral of this story? It is quite simple. Our lives are filled with a seemingly endless battle against guilt and shame for sins we have committed but due to Gods grace we are issued an endless supply of Mulligans.
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2)