Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. -- Jonah 3 (emphasis mine)
The words, “Just give me a second chance,” have never crossed my lips.
When I mess up, I don’t believe I should be given a second chance. I know I’ve messed up; I’ve hurt someone or let someone down. And, usually, when I mess up, it’s a royal mess, or at least I think it is. I may work hard to repair a rift or make up for a wrongdoing, but, in the deepest corner of my mind, I don’t believe I should receive a second chance.
I store a lot of guilt. When I was, ahem, requested to leave one grad school for another, I carried the guilt for years – and didn’t even know it for a long time. It wasn’t until I burst into tears when Kyle mentioned it in passing one day that I realized how deep that wound still cut. And it took a lot of prayer and a lot of love from Kyle to realize that my guilt was unfounded.
I doubt myself after the most meaningless conversations. I mentioned this to Kyle one night after a Wednesday night Bible study, about how I hoped I didn’t offend one girl because I felt I had not talked to her enough. On another occasion, I actually emailed a friend about a particularly bitter comment (I felt) I had made toward her – and was surprised to receive a response that she actually had not given it a second thought.
My guilt is nothing more than another aspect of my pride coming out. I should be perfect, but when I fail to live up to my own expectations, I condemn myself and decide that there’s no hope for restoration. Not only is this wrong for myself to live a freeing life in God’s mercy and grace, this also has a negative impact on what I call “outlier” relationships.
Outlier relationships are the surface relationships – the ones of people you don’t see all the time but you’d still say “hey” in the grocery store and ask how their day is. Outlier relationships include a lunch every now and then, but you don’t go too deep; you don’t ask personal questions, and you don’t give personal information. It’s a “test” relationship, skin deep.
With outlier relationships, you can take ‘em or leave ‘em. And, if someone is particularly annoying one night or rude one day, you can chalk it up to a failure in a potential friendship and not worry about that individual anymore. Or at least I can. Or I could.
But that’s a person. That’s a daughter – or a son – of God. They have feelings and worries and joys and pains just like I do. She’s looking for a job. He’s looking for acceptance. She’s looking for friendship.
If I don’t allow myself second chances, why would I allow second – or third or fourth or so on – chances for other people?
Outlier relationships are tricky, precarious. You have to give of yourself in expectation that the other person will give as well. And if that person for some reason fails you, well, you’ve just got to hope that when you fail them, they’ll give you a second chance, too.