IF LIFE HAD MULLIGANS
By DANNY MINTON
The guys I play golf with have an unwritten rule. We are allowed one mulligan per nine holes played. For those that don’t know, a mulligan is simply a “do over.” You can redo any shot, and the first one doesn’t count against you. We don’t play for money, just for fun.
Now I realize that it breaks the rules of golf and many golfers are probably appalled by the adjusting of the rules, but it eases some of the tension on a bad day. In fact, there are days when someone is really struggling that mulligans are handed out even more generously. We just play for fun, so a little nudge of the ball or forgetting a bad shot and giving another chance is just a way to help those who are struggling. The problem is that those rules go by the wayside when we play in real competition. You have to play the ball where it lies.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life would be that way? How would you like it if life would allow you one mulligan every decade you lived? If this were the case, then I’d be owed seven mulligans. I’ve been wondering, “What would my life mulligans be.” I realized as I was going over them in my mind that I really needed more in my early years than I do now. That’s kind of like golf. We make more mistakes as we’re learning the game and fewer major blunders the better we get. Surprisingly enough, many of the mulligans ended up being little things and not the major events I faced. It’s like that in golf too. It’s a lot easier to recover from a bad drive than a duffed chip shot. So what are mine? Well here they are:
0-10 This one was hard, not because of what I did, but because I can’t remember what I did for the most part. The one thing that stands out is when I said something that hurt my mother’s feelings. I apologized, but I can still remember that day. It’d be nice to take it back.
11-20 It’s a shame I only get one. This was one of those times I needed several. I would, however, go back to my high school years and treat some people a little better. I look at kids today and feel for those who are outcast.
21-30 As soon as I finished college, I’d have made sure my wife got to finish her degree. She worked to get me through then we went on with life. I regret that. I spent a lot of time in the rough during these years.
31-40 This was a time of a big mistake of a job change that I wish I hadn’t made. It caused a lot of family struggles over the years that could have been avoided.
41-50 I’d have spent more time with my youngest son. I feel we missed out on a lot of father-son stuff because I was “too busy.”
51-60 I’d have at least started thinking retirement better. At the rate I’m going it looks like I can retire at 102.
61-70 These years were tough. We lost our oldest son unexpectedly, and my brothers and I performed part of my mother’s funerals. I’d take a mulligan here to be able to go back and hug my son or tell my mom I love her once more.
71- I’ve just started this decade. I’m sure there will be times that lie ahead that I’ll want to take a mulligan, a “do over.” My father passed away, but I did say, “I love you, pop!” when I left him for the last time.
Yes, it would be nice if life would have let me take a mulligan here or there, but it’s not like the weekend game for fun. Life is more like the pros play; no mulligans, no do-overs. You play the ball where it lies. Of course, every so often you get a free drop when something that is not your fault gets in the way. You also get a drop when you make a mistake, but it’s not free. You can get another chance, but it’s going to cost you a stroke. So, it is with life. We suffer the consequences of our mistakes, but we continue to get other chances. We learn from what we did wrong, and in most cases, our second chance turns out okay.
The Apostle Paul struggled with life much as we do. His words in Romans, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:14-15 (NIV2011)) We learn that the struggles we make in life are struggles that each person must face. We all have our different pains and regrets; our lives are full of complicated battles, many of which we have lost and would like another chance to fight.
There is one bright point in our lives. That’s what’s great about being a Christian. Every time we pray and ask Christ for another chance, he takes the eraser, cleans off the scorecard and says “Okay, try again.” And He’ll keep doing it until we get it right. We can’t change the past, but we’re given every chance possible to change today.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ