Because I am not a golfer (despite my putt-putt grandstanding) I looked up the word “mulligan” to be sure I was spelling it correctly and not misusing the term. I discovered on Dictionary.com (Mulligan Definition) that mulligan refers to a stew made up of whatever happens to be lying around as well as the more common – at least in my orbit – do-over term from the world of golf. The mulligan has a fun backstory if you love etymology like I do, and possibly refers to two different golfers named Mulligan who for different reasons requested to take another shot at the first hole (Mulligan Origin Story).
Apparently, there are some occasions in the PGA official rules that require a mulligan, and one player this year has been penalized for not taking his mulligan shot (Pro Golfer Penalized for NOT Taking a Mulligan). If you have read my blog for a while and are suddenly worried that I’m turning to sports writing, never fear: the mulligan references are just the perfect illustration for how I’ve been feeling about my writing and my life in general lately.
#1 – As both Misters Mulligan could attest, there’s no harm or shame in asking for another shot.
I’ve started and stopped this blog so many times that it will be a minor miracle if anyone comes back to read since I’ve been rambling for such a long time. I feel like I haven’t had a good grip on what I should be writing, and I haven’t made time to do any real writing for several months. I feel no lack of guilt and shame about that since the one consistent gift God has given me and put me in a place to use is my writing.
Here’s what I need to remember about that shame: it’s not from God. It’s a wretched emotion that blocks me from writing and sharing again here on Mabbat, and it does nothing productive in my life. What is from God? The guilt of conviction that asks me to start again, to pick up where I left off and turn away from whatever was holding me back from his purposes – that’s from God. He gives each of us new mercies every morning to start the day fresh with him (Lamentations 3:23).
Every day is a mulligan. We get new mercies every day. Whatever you are facing that seems insurmountable, tell it the truth that God is starting every day new with you, and all that old baggage need not ride along for your mulligan today.
#2 – As Jesper Parnevik discovered, sometimes you HAVE to take a mulligan. It’s in the rules.
Do you ever feel like you’re fighting the same battles over and over again? I do. I am always making the same to-do list for days on end because I don’t accurately plan for the time each task will take in the real world. (I am much more efficient in Anne-land without any interruptions or people or…) I feel like I will always be cycling in and out of depression, and every loop back into it knocks me off track and requires another run at rebuilding good habits (because maybe this time I will be so well established in my routines that depression brain can’t knock me on my duff – it’s a brave thought, at least). I have been on and off again so many times with diet and exercise that there’s not a diet plan out there I haven’t read about and at least briefly considered.
All that guilt and shame I described about neglecting writing? It’s equally applicable to my habits, my depression brain, my healthy weight management, and any other aspect of my life that feels like it runs on repeat mode. And the shame is equally destructive to all those things, too. But guess what? New mercies apply here, too.
Not only that, but there are very real obstacles we run into that require us to take a mulligan. Like depression. And loss. Or life changes like job transfers, budget shortfalls, aging, and a million other things we’ll encounter as long as we’re alive on this earth.
We can try to play through, but ignoring the need to take another shot will end up penalizing us somewhere down the road. Lining up a new shot with fresh perspective doesn’t make you a failure, but failing to restart and floundering where you are could.
Take the mulligan, get a read on the new shot, and get moving. You only fail if you give up.
#3 – We are all a mulligan stew of our lived experiences and the lessons we’ve learned from them.
I could list a lot of things I regret saying or doing. I imagine we all can. But I don’t think we should spend much time on the regret. Everything I’ve lived through has made me who I am today, and if I could go back and change the things I regret, I wouldn’t, because they’re all a part of me now. Who would I be if I hadn’t learned the lessons those regrets taught me? Who would I be now without walking through all those years of loss? It’s taken a long time to get here, to feel this free and this strong. I’m not going back.
It’s not the regrets that built who I am today, though; it’s what I learned from living through them. Remembering that I was cruel to someone who didn’t deserve it in middle school still pushes me to encourage and build up others instead of gossiping. Living through the worst of my depression brain taught me to ask for help when I’m struggling and to offer a lifeline to anyone I can. I have never been nor will ever be perfect.
I’m a hodgepodge stew of lessons learned, hopes, dreams, failed good intentions, faith in the God of new mercies, and so much coffee. What makes my particular stew tasty rather than bitter is the salt and light of faith that has given me fresh starts and God’s big-picture perspectives when I’ve needed them.
Here are three things for you to ponder this Thursday:
What kind of mulligan stew are you?
Where do you need to take a mulligan today?
How does the knowledge that God provides new mercies for everyone every day change your opinion of taking a mulligan?