The Church of the Second Chance

coffee_cup_white.jpgAnne Tyler is one of my favorite novelists.  The first book I read by her was Saint Maybe.  It is the best book I’ve read by her.

 
It is the story of a seventeen-year-old boy named Ian, who is living with a truckload of guilt.  After all, he had told his brother Danny that his wife, and mother of Danny’s baby, had not faithful to him.  After that conversation, Danny dropped off Ian at his house and seconds later there was a crash.  Danny had driven into the stone wall at the end of the street, killing himself.  

 
Later, after getting off work one evening, he walked by a church with this sign:

 
The Church of the Second Chance

 
The church was assembled in a worship service that evening.  Ian asked the church to pray for him.  He had one request, "Pray for me to be good again.  Pray for me to be forgiven."

 
I read these lines in this book and I was moved.  "The Church of the Second Chance."  How inviting!  A church for people like you and me.  People who need a second chance.  This was an invitation to those who were tired of being pretenders.  This is a church that assumed that men and women need a new start.  A new beginning. 

 
I think that is the way church was always meant to be.

 

  • Not a place for those who seem to have life together.
  • Not a place for those who seem to have it together with God.
  • Not a place for those who are better than all of these other people whose behavior has been so embarrassing and shameful.
  • Not a place for the people who know all of the answers and have it down.

No, this is the church for people who cry out like Ian.  "Pray for me to be good again."  Maybe it is the church where one connects with Jesus.  After all, Jesus doesn’t give up on us.  He is the one who has given us the opportunity to experience a new beginning (2 Cor. 5:17-18).  This may be especially meaningful to you if you have a closet full of dark secrets.  You wonder how he could ever love you again.  Yet, he longs to hear us say to him,

 
Help me!

 
However, if you are like many people, you don’t have a closet full of dark secrets.  But you do have quite a track record.  For years and years, you have done life your way.  You have seen God as an insurance policy.  He’s there if you need him.  So you go on your way until you get in trouble or run into something that is over your head.  Then, you call for help.  It is true that God will not be used or manipulated.  It is not true that he no longer wants to hear from you.

 

  • You may be overwhelmed today with your health issues.  (What’s going to happen to me in the future?)
  • You may be overwhelmed by guilt.  (How could I have such wicked thoughts?  How could I do that?)
  • You may be overwhelmed as you become aware of your own pride.  (Why would God want to help me when I have basically ignored him while I tried to do life my way?)
  • You may be overwhelmed by your disappointment.  (I just thought life would be different than this.)

 
I have felt overwhelmed by all of these at one time or another.  Maybe you have as well.  Yet, God still longs to hear those same words,

 
Help me!

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7 thoughts on “The Church of the Second Chance

  1. So true Jim.  I identify well with all these "questions" of feeling overwhelmed.  Sometimes all I want to do is cry out for help, but I feel like the church has lost its compassion for each other or God seems so far from the "rescue" I need.  I know that hope still lives though I feel it has abandoned me.  Thanks for your encouragement.

  2. Jim,
    I am a member of that church. Whites Ferry Road in West Monroe, LA is the church of 2nd chances. I been a Christian for over 40 years and I have never seen a group of people who are more forgiving, who extend grace and mercy more consistantly, than my "forever family" at WFR.
    I am blessed!
    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  3. Royce,Thanks for this comment.  How wonderful that you are able to witness this kind of grace in your church family.  What a powerful testimony to God’s work through a group of his people. 

  4. Frank,I’m so glad you made this comment today.  I pray that the God "…who will never leave you or forsake you" (Heb. 13:5) will be very close to you. I have come to a place where I believe he is the only eternal hope even when I may not feel that close to him or to his people.Thanks, 

  5. Do you have a pastor named Zach who got very sick? If so, our pastor, Matt, met him and we have been praying for him.

  6. Hi, I liked waht you said here. “The Church of the Second Chance” is also a book about prisons and Bible characters. It has a lot of facts and examples about people in prison, people who help prisoners etc
    It was used for a wonderful curriculum about prison reform –a six week class I took with the RC Diocese of Joliet, altho I am not Catholic…