by Dick Innes

I read about an All-American center for the University of California (Berkeley) football team, the Golden Bears, who was a star player in the Grand Final game of the 1929 season played in the famous Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. His name? Roy Riegals.

Excitement and tension ran high as the California Golden Bears and the Yellowjackets from Georgia Tech battled for victory. Roy played both offense and defense. Close to the end of the first half, a Tech player fumbled the ball. Roy saw his chance, scooped up the loose ball, and bolted towards the goal 65 yards away.

There was one problem however. Roy was running toward the wrong goal!

Fortunately, one of his teammates went after him in hot pursuit and managed to tackle him just before he crossed the opposition’s goal line!

It’s hard to even imagine the embarrassment and shame that Roy must have felt there on the field with thousands of startled eyes focused on him, then walking off the field with head hanging low, and sitting in the locker room with his teammates and coach during the half-time break. No doubt the thousands of spectators wondered what Coach Nibbs Price would do with him.

The man who never made a mistake
never made anything.

In the locker room the dead silence was broken only by the sobs of the All-American star.

Then Coach Price announced, “Men, the same team that started the first half will start the second half.” Roy, with red face and swollen eyes blurted out, “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”

“Get up, Roy,” the coach said. “Go back on. The game is only half over.” Riegals was given a second chance, accepted it, returned to the game and gave one of the most inspiring individual efforts in Rose Bowl history!

Probably many of us can, at least to some degree, identify with Roy Riegals. I certainly can. I’ve made my share of “going the wrong way mistakes.” I remember making a big one on a construction site years ago. I felt terrible but my boss said to me, “The man who never made a mistake never made anything!” I’ve never forgotten his supportive words. I try to remember them when others around me make mistakes, too.

I’m thankful, too, that God is a God of second chances (third and fourth and many more too). The classic story in the Bible where God gives one of his servants a second chance is the one about Jonah. God was deeply concerned about the city of Nineveh where evil was running rampant and destroying the people.

God “spoke” to Jonah and Jonah got the message loud and clear that he was to go to Nineveh to warn the people there about their self-destructive wicked ways and to turn from these to God.

Because of his prejudices Jonah did not want to go to preach to the people of Nineveh, so he took off for the sea port of Joppa where he boarded a ship that was sailing in the opposite direction, heading for the city of Tarshish.

At sea, according to the biblical record, God caused a raging storm to come up, a storm that threatened to sink the ship and drown everyone on board.

Fearing for their lives, the sailors were angry at Jonah because, instead of calling out to his God as they were to their gods, he was sound asleep down in the hold. They believed that the storm was caused by someone on board so they “drew straws” to see who it might be. Jonah was it … so they threw the trouble-maker overboard into the raging sea. Immediately there was a great calm!

But God didn’t give up on Jonah or the people of Nineveh. He sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, to bring him to his senses, and to save him from drowning. Down there in the belly of this fish, Jonah was zapped into reality real quick. He had two ways to go—his or God’s. He chose God’s. Smart man. He admitted to God that God was right and he was wrong … after which the fish headed for the shore and threw up Jonah onto the beach!

Then comes the good news: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time!”1

Like Jonah, God will give you
a second chance too.

Even though Jonah blatantly disobeyed God and ran in the opposite direction, he couldn’t get away from God. When he came to his senses and admitted his failure, God forgave him, rescued him, and re-commissioned him. The result was that Jonah went to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s message. Subsequently, the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways to God and were saved from self-destruction.

If you have been going the wrong way, aware of it or not, have failed in some way, or perhaps like Jonah have purposefully run from God, or are just feeling a sense of loss, emptiness, or hopelessness, this could very well be God’s wake up call to you, calling you to himself. Or if you have strayed from him, chances are that he is using your present circumstances as a means of calling you back to himself. Like Jonah, when we’re down in the mouth or in the pits, it’s impossible for us to see things from God’s perspective. One thing is certain, however, God knows where we are, exactly why we are where we are, and what his plans for us are.

Whatever your circumstances are, God wants you to turn to him and call on him for help. No matter what you have ever done or failed to do, God loves you with an everlasting love and will forgive you and help you if you call on him. Why not find a private place, or just in the quiet of your heart tell God right now exactly how you feel, admit to him any wrongs you may have done, or wrong directions you have taken and ask him to forgive you and to come into your heart and life.

Like Jonah, God will also give you a second chance and you, too, can live again.

For further help read the article, “Forgiveness: the Power That Heals.”

1. Jonah 3:1.