You may not be a football or sports fan, but this story is worth the read, and you will be encouraged. On New Year’s Day in 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. Shortly before halftime, a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. A teammate tackled him just before he would have scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety. The group headed off the field and went into the dressing room. As they sat on the benches, Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in the corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.
Coach Nibs Price was silent. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Everybody just sat there. When the timekeeper announced three minutes till the end of the half the playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”
The players got up and headed back to the field — all but Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called him again, but he still didn’t move. Coach Price went to Riegels and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team starts the second half.” Riegels looked up, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Coach, I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium if my life depended on it.” Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder, and said, “Roy, get up and go back. The game is only half over.
Roy Riegels went back, and everybody who saw it said he played the most fantastic game in his entire life in that second half.
We take the ball many times and run in the wrong direction, and we stumble and fall and embarrass ourselves and make mistakes, and we’re so ashamed, and we think, “I don’t even want to try anymore. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to try again.” God comes to us. He puts His arm around us. He says, “Get up and go on back. The game’s only half over.”
What I believe God is saying to us through these verses we’ve looked at is simple. Please don’t spend the rest of your life regretting your past. It only wastes the present. What is it in your past that stings your conscience? Maybe it haunts you. Perhaps it’s a secret that no one else in the whole world knows. But God knows. And it hurts. Because we’re all imperfect, we all have our regrets. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” I can’t think of a verse in the Bible that is more confirmed by human experience than that verse. We all fall short. We miss the mark. I don’t live up to my standards and ideals, much less God’s. But here’s the good news: No matter what you’ve done, you are valuable to God. He loves you because He made you. God never meant for you to live under a load of regret. God wants to forgive you instantly, completely, and freely. Just admit you were wrong and freely receive His love and forgiveness. It is the way we can be released from our regrets.