Anne 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,
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,