Ah, back in the day. A nice game of pickup football in the front yard. Don’t laugh—I may have been chosen last every time, but I was on the field. Those were the good times. The offense huddles, and the complex play is unfurled by the tenacious quarterback: “Ok, everyone just get open. I’ll throw it to you.” Break.
It’s a five Mississippi rush with no blitz. The quarterback drops back and says, “Hut,” after which we all take off down the field.
Chris Doolittle trips on his way to the end zone, but don’t count him out just because he fell down. The play is still developing.
I’m open! I’m open! Mostly because I took three steps and then turned around. The quarterback ignores me because there are no first downs in front yard football, and I’m not exactly known for picking up yards after the catch. Actually I’m not known for making the catch either.
Up the field, two of our players have arrived in the end zone along with about six of theirs. Front yard quarterbacks are not known for their accuracy, so he needs to wait for the odds to improve before letting it fly.
I’m still open. Two more of our players have made it to the end zone. Chris Doolittle has recovered and is running across the field now. The quarterback wishes Chris was in the end zone because Chris is taller than anyone else.
The rush is on. Two defenders take aim at the quarterback. He drops back. He drops back more. Doolittle is running back toward the quarterback, who gets absolutely clobbered. The ball sails through the air. Doolittle makes a miraculous catch and heads up the field, getting tackled on about the one yard line.
“No, no, no! He was down back here. I got him!” The defense claims they got the quarterback down before he could get the ball away. “No way. My knee wasn’t down.” Argument ensues. He really was down, but that doesn’t matter. The shouting continues until someone, tired of all the nonsense, yells, “Do over!”
Ah, the do-over. The nuclear option of front yard sports. The play is negated. No big gain for the offense. No sack for the defense. No loss of down. We just line up and do it all again. It’s the only fair way to settle the dispute because we don’t have instant replay. And deep inside we all know the outcome really doesn’t matter like it does in “real games.”
How many times since then have I wanted a do-over? A harsh word, a brash action. An email that shouldn’t have been sent. So many times I’ve been less than my best and wanted nothing more than to walk back to the original line of scrimmage and try it again. But words can’t be unsaid. Actions can’t be undone.
Still, there is grace. And there is forgiveness. Though the unkind word cannot be unsaid, I can be forgiven by the one I have wronged—or the One I have wronged. Forgiveness extended is the offer of a do-over even when it isn’t deserved. The sunset on yesterday and the sunrise of today offers a do-over of its own—a chance to be a better me. A chance to step back to the line, snap the ball, and make a better choice.