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In golf, a mulligan is a "do-over" when you hit a bad shot. Have you ever longed for a parenting mulligan? What better parents we all would have been if we could just get some "do-overs" without our wrongs having an impact on others. Guess what? Jesus has provided a way for us to take a mulligan in life.




by Greg Brezina


Recently Uncle Randy and I played golf. When I hit the ball off the first tee, it took off like a rocket. Halfway down the fairway it sliced right and landed in the trees. I hit a bad shot. Immediately Uncle Randy said, “Let’s take a mulligan on the first tee.” I agreed, thankfully.


In golf, a mulligan is a “do-over” which means one can hit a second ball and the first ball that was hit will not be recorded on his/her scorecard. A mulligan gives golfers a second chance.


Mulligans, however, are never permitted in official golf. They are only allowed in charity tournaments. When Uncle Randy and I play golf together, we always consider it a charity event.


Wouldn’t it be great to get mulligans in this life? Imagine every time we messed up, we could get a second chance to do it right, and our wrongs would never be recorded.


While raising my sons, I longed for parenting mulligans. What a better parent I could have been.


When I was seven years old, my dad died, and I had a very difficult time maturing into a responsible adult. Thinking that I too may die at an early age, my approach to Christian parenting focused on training my boys (Connie and I have four sons.) to be responsible Christian adults as quickly as possible. Looking back, I had a desire born out of fear for my sons to skip childhood and be mature adults.


During those early parenting years, I developed “Christian” rules to live by such as, “We will not ‘waste’ or play with food since some people are starving around the world.” This rule was learned when my well-meaning grandfather demanded that I eat all the food on my plate because people were starving in the world.


Other such “biblically backed” rules were learned from legalistic pastors and teachers. Being a performance based parent, I demanded unqualified obedience to my “Christian” rules. I was always saying, “No, no,” or “NO!” Using an angry “NO!” and a stern face was one way that I scared, shamed, and controlled my sons into obeying me. When they would continue to act their age, I would take their behavior as “rebellion in the ranks” and “have to” discipline. My parenting style was that of a Christian legalist, and I didn’t even realize it.


This parenting style continued until I understood God’s most wonderful grace. However, it was too late to re-parent my children. Bart, Ben and Beau had already left home. Brad, our youngest, did get a few years of parenting with grace from me.


Last week, I was reminded of my legalistic parenting style when Connie and I had some of our sons and their families over for dinner. I sat next to Ben and Ann Marie’s one-year-old son Christopher. When I started eating my salad, he leaned over as far as he could reach and tried to retrieve some of my salad with his fork. In the process, he pushed lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes off of my plate onto the table. Remembering the pain I caused my own sons, I paused to think about how best to respond.


Immediately his mother started to stop him. In that moment I had this thought, “Tell her it’s okay.”


I said, “Ann Marie, it’s okay.” So, she let him continue to push salad off of my plate. Listening for more instruction from the Holy Spirit, I sat and watched Christopher as all those painful memories continued to flow through my mind of how I had treated my sons.


Then I had these thoughts, “Christopher is learning to explore the world in which he lives. See, he is trying to be a mature man just like you. He wants to eat salad just like his ‘Daddy B.’” So grace upon grace, I let him push as much salad off my plate for as long as he wanted.


As I watched him, more thoughts followed. “By letting him explore the world of my salad, I am encouraging him to learn. By not saying, ‘No, no,’ I have not hindered his inquisitive nature. By not saying ‘NO!’ I have not scared or shamed him.” As I contemplated these thoughts, I knew God was, in a way, giving me a grandparenting love mulligan. Similarly, He was restoring to me the years the “locust have eaten.” And my heart was full of joy.


You should have seen the smile on Christopher’s face when he forked a carrot. He was smiling from ear to ear because he tasted the adventure of the hunt and the thrill of achievement. In time, through growth, instruction, and a loving relationship with his parents and grandparents, he will learn how to keep food on a plate.


Is saying “No” sometimes necessary in graceful grandparenting? Yes, it is. Connie and I do not give our grandsons grace to be creative with sharp knives or investigate a busy street on their tricycle. In God’s grace is wisdom and discernment.


It took me over twenty years as a Christian to understand God’s grace. But, once I understood it, I repented from and abandoned my legalistic Christian ways. Then, I thanked God for forgiving me and asked my adult sons to forgive me. And God be praised, they forgave me.


Would you like God’s love mulligan? Then just ask Him. The way to receive this gift is to believe in Jesus as He says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” If you are a “Christian” legalist and would like to understand God’s marvelous grace, then just ask Him. His Spirit will guide you into all truth, and Jesus will set you free from your legalism.


By the way, the salad wasn’t wasted. I didn’t hesitate to scoop it up, put it back on my plate, and eat it because Connie keeps a clean table.