It was the legendary coach of the University of Texas Longhorns Darrell Royal who once observed that “three things can happen when you throw a football… and two of them are bad.” And I suspect that Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, may have remembered that saying just about the same time that his quarterback quite literally “threw away” the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots on Sunday in the last thirty seconds, trading an unexpected interception for the half yard of ground that would have won the game.
But then I likewise suspect that Coach Carroll is not alone. For every day, we all make decisions that turn out to have been–with the benefit of hindsight–if not completely wrong, still, not exactly right either. Sometimes it’s as simple as turning the wrong way or missing an exit, and finding ourselves on a longer detour than we might ever have imagined. Or alternately, we may make a wrong choice in life, buying the wrong product or passing up on an opportunity that later on turns out to have been a great one. (Investing $20,000 into Cisco stock in 1990, for instance, would have made you $60 million just ten years later!)
At other times, however, it may be as serious as stepping over a moral or legal line in life, thinking we can slip back across it before the consequences catch up to us… only not quite making it before they do so.
It’s no wonder, thus, that the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier hit upon a notion with which we can all identify perhaps when more than a century and a half ago he wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
Fortunately, even if you can’t always play a football game over again, there is always the possibility of redemption in the Christian life if we have followed our hunch but found ourselves at a dead end. For speaking on behalf of the Lord, it was the prophet Isaiah who told us that our Maker can blot out our transgressions like a cloud and our sins like a mist (Isaiah 44.22). And still later, the apostle Peter—a practiced advocate of the “blunder forward first and back up later” approach to life– assured us that we can indeed be ransomed “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers.” (1 Peter 1.18)
Of course, some will insist on simply repeating their mistakes, living out a real-life version of the winsome film named for February 2, “Groundhog Day.” But I’d rather like to think that no one is inherently forced to do so. All we need is a biddable spirit which is not only open to the Lord’s correction, but is eager to discover the right pathway indeed.
I have a feeling that in Phoenix yesterday, that pathway was probably to run straight ahead into the end zone which lay only inches away. Fortunately, however, as a lifelong SMU and Astros fan, I learned long ago that there’s always next year.