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The Way of Second Chances

In the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9, Jesus says, “There was a fig tree growing in a vineyard. The owner came out looking for fruit on it but didn’t find any. The owner said to the vine dresser, ‘Look here! For three years now I’ve come out in search of fruit on this fig tree and have found none. Cut it down. Why should it clutter up the ground?’  In reply, the vine dresser said, ‘Please leave it one more year while I hoe around it and fertilize it If it bears fruit next year, fine; if not, then let it be cut down.’”

Jesus obviously didn’t shared this parable to talk to us about fig trees, but to tell us about ourselves and about our relationships with other people and with God. It seems to me that the first thing it tells us is pretty obvious: it is important to give something or someone a second chance. But it has a few other messages as well. Given that the tree was barren for three years, perhaps this parable reminds us that it is never too late to offer a second chance. And, also that the second chance must come with care and attention to helping it succeed.

There are so many things in life we all need second chances for: love, trust, friendships, all kinds of relationthips, careers, dreams, talent, church, God and more!

Let me make a disclaimer here: we know that the vine dresser put a time limit on the second chance, and I admit that there comes a time in some situations where another “second” chance is no longer prudent, nor helpful. This message is not about those times. However, I think it is important to remember that even in those situations, when we’ve screwed up something beyond repair (or someone else has), the divine never runs out of time for second chances, nor is there a limit of second chances one can have.


It seems to me that all of the messages I’ve been sharing for the last few weeks start to merge together when we talk about second chances. You see, spiritual integrity is important here because it means we are remaining true to the beautiful, sacred being within us. This means we’re looking beneath the exterior mistakes and screw-ups and honoring the beautiful soul inside us, or inside another, to take or offer another chance.

And perseverance always comes into play when we’re talking about second chances. If we want a second chance, or want to offer one, it means we’ll have to hang in there, to keep going, and often to draw upon an inner spiritual strength to get through. When we’re hanging on by a thread because we’re hurt, or we’ve messed up, it helps to think of that thread as the essence of the divine running through all things.

So, it seems that there are many reasons not to offer a second chance, and we use these reasons frequently. Most of them revolve around fear. We're afraid of getting hurt again, afraid of failure, afraid of not being worthy of forgiveness, afraid of trusting again, afraid of rejection. Sometimes I think we just give up because it is easier than putting in the time and energy to make something work.

Hope and help are essential to second chances. We must have hope that things will be better this time, or different this time. And hope must be accompanied by nurture, commitment and often hard work. Using the metaphor of the parable, we can't just let the fig tree sit there for another year, we need to loosen the soil and fertilize it!

I have at least one definitive flaw in my character (that I’m willing to admit to in this moment)… I want to be good at everything immediately. But the reality is that happens in almost NOTHING. Not in playing the piano, or singing, or preaching or being a mother or a partner or a friend. NOTHING.

OK… here’s a story going back a few years. When I was in high school I competed in forensics in a category called Significant Speech. This category required you to write a speech for a significant occasion. I chose to write a eulogy for Susan B. Anthony. Go figure, right? Well, I was doing really well with the speech I had written and was feeling pretty good about myself. And then I came upon one of the hardest judges in the circuit and he was less than thrilled with my speech. I got the lowest rating I’d gotten all season and a list of things he thought I could do better. I was crushed, but I had a choice. I could quit, I could continue with the speech I had, or I could take him seriously and rewrite it. I chose to do the hard work and rewrite it. In the end it was a good thing I did because I ran up against the same judge at a higher level competition, and he remembered me. However, after the speech he credited me with taking his critique seriously and putting in the time and effort to rewrite the speech and this time he gave me high marks. I got a second chance and put in the work to make it better.

The same thing goes with a job or a relationship. My relationship with Julie isn’t always perfect, just as I’m sure none of your significant relationships is perfect. Second chances are required all the time. We may be on our 50th chance by this time. There is always hope that things will get better, but I can assure you that they rarely get better unless we work at it, talk about it, become aware of how we each feel. Unless we dig up around the problem a bit and give it some fertilizer, not much changes.

These are fairly easy examples of second chances, but I know that it isn’t always easy or risk free.

I came across a story about a woman named Gina, who started an ace hardware store with her husband in a rather edgy part of Washington D.C. People were moving into the area, but they’d need a hardware store for supplies, and there wasn’t one nearby. Logan Ace Hardware quickly became part of the community, and the community also became a part of the store because Gina began hiring people from the neighborhood. It was her policy to hire workers based on their ability to work hard and do their job, not their past.

The article I read shared this story, "Mark was a recovering addict who lived nearby and heard he might be able to get a job. He approached Gina and said, "I've been clean from drugs for six months and I need a job." Gina said if he could spend the day unloading supplies from a truck and still be happy, they could discuss a job. Mark recently celebrated his 14th anniversary with Logan Ace and now oversees the inventory for all eleven stores.

Then there's Victoria. She admits if Gina hadn't given her a chance, she isn't sure where her life would be. She started as a team member and now is part of the company's management team working in marketing and window displays. She's also in recovery and has lost more than 100 pounds and says the culture at Logan Ace helps keep her honest."

Gina and her husband have created a place where people not only have second chances, but have hope for a better future, and a community of support helping them along the way. 

Take another chance on yourself, or on someone else, but remember to invest some energy as well, put time and effort into whatever you want to succeed, care for it, fertilize it. Often with love, hope, nurture and effort that second chance will produce fruit.

Love & Light!