July 9, 2019
Songs Of Prayer, Stories Of Faith

THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES

Music and text: David Haas

Come now, O God of second chances; open our lives to heal.
Remove our hate, and melt our rage.  Save us from ourselves.

Come now, O God, release our demons; open our eyes to see
the shame within, our guilt and pain.  Mend us; make us whole. 

Come now, O God, and still our anger; open our minds to peace.
Embrace our fear, and hold us close.  Calm the storm within.

Come now, O God, shake our resentment; open our way to choose
the way of love over revenge.  Show us a new way.

Come now, O God, and grant compassion; open our hearts to love.
May we let go of all our hurt.  Help us to move on.

Coe now, O God of second chances; may we forgive ourselves.
May we become your living sign: Children of God’s love.  

Copyright © 2005 GIA Publications, Inc.

In the fall of 2007, I had open heart surgery.  I knew for a few years before this, that I would someday have to have a valve replacement, but what speeded up the urgency of the surgery was that as a result of a regular visit to the doctor, they saw that my aorta had been swelling up and became so enlarged that we had to do surgery soon. This required two procedures to be taken care of at the same time.  So it was a long surgery, about 10 and half hours.  For the most part it went well, and so after 8 days, I was allowed to go home.

So I am in my “going home” clothes, and while saying goodbye and thanking the staff at the nurse’s station, I fell faint and dropped to the floor (good place to be when something like this happens!).  After I “came to,” they decided that I would not be going home after all; they were going to have to re-admit me, as they wanted to keep an me after this happened.

So there I am, again, laying in a hospital bed, and not happy about it all.  I wanted to go home.  I was agitated and so I was trying to relax and fall asleep, but one of the things you learn if you have to be in the hospital for any length of time – is just how bad television can really be.  I wanted to just watch something to take my mind off the fact that I was still there, so in the absence of any TV program worth watching, I asked one of the nurses if they had any videos that I could watch – all I wanted to do was watch something and not have to think, and hopefully, drift off to sleep.  It was a short list of options, but I settled on the “Sound of Music.”  I know what you are probably thinking – but this was perfect – I had seen the move dozens and dozens of times, which was great.  I could watch it, and zone out. So I did.

Suddenly at some point during the night (while the movie was still playing) I was startled and saw that there seemed to be about 20 people in the room.  A nurse was at my side, sort of patting my leg, telling me that I would be OK. There were machines and people scurrying about – basically, I had gone into cardiac arrest.  They came in with the “paddles,” and just like in the movies, they placed them on my chest, and I remember feeling myself almost leaping off the bed while they applied them.  Now, in addition to all of this and because they were obviously preoccupied with taking care of me, no one bothered to turn off the TV – so the movie was still going, and while all of this was going on, guess what scene from the “Sound of Music” was taking place: it is the Von Trapp Family Singers singing at the festival, just before they are to escape from the Germans, and yes, they are singing: “So long, farewell.”  Finally, someone turned off the TV – thank goodness.  They finally got me calmed down, and things seemed to be calmer.  However, about 2 hours later, a second episode occurred.  And the next morning, a third.

Now remember, I was supposed to be going home … thank goodness I did not.

To this day, the doctors are not 100 perfect in consensus as to what were the conditions that caused this happen.  But they were in agreement, that as a precautionary measure, I should have a second surgery so they could implant a defribulator.  So I had that procedure, and of course, had to remain in the hospital for a few extra days.  Since those two days, as of this writing 10 years later, there has not been any more incidents, and the defribulator has never “gone off.”

In the 10 years that have passed, I am still learning much from this experience.  The first thing I have learned, is that I never want to see “The Sound of Music” ever again.  Secondly, and far more importantly, I have come to realize, that in some strange way, this was a “dress-rehearsal,” so to speak, of death and resurrection (actually, it was that in of itself)), and I have come to know in much less dramatic ways than this event, the workings of what I have come to call, the God of “second chances.”  I was not supposed to have been going home that day.  Something was about to happen, and God placed me in an environment where a resurrection, a “second chance” could take place.

I have also learned that while I still fall into the quicksand of my human frailties, the movements of revenge and holding back forgiveness only eats away at our well-being; I have learned and continue to learn, that there is a “new way” that comes to us when we examine our actions that cause harm and division.  I am still learning – and it is a difficult lesson – that shame is a poison and wasted energy in our lives, both in how we knowingly and unknowingly inflict it on others, but also – how we become consumed by it ourselves.  Shame is not a reflex or response to the empty tomb; it needs to be exorcised from us, so that the stone rolled away, and remain, rolled away. I am learning that the world, and people in this world create the storms that flood our hearts – and that the storms that I hold within, can be calmed if I surrender myself to the God of love and mercy.

I am also learning that this God of second chances is walking with me in the midst of all my anxiety and often crippling depression; this God of second chances embraces the rat inside of me that I know has been the source of pain to others – and keeps on offering healing; that this God of second chances keeps on forgiving me over and over and over again.  Non-stop.  Relentless. Yes, the doctors, nurses, and the “paddles” brought me back – a living and concrete sign of the “bringing back” to life that God places before me at all times, places and situations.  But it is God alone who offers more than just resuscitation – God offers a new freedom from our anxiety, anger, negativity, self-loathing – rescuing us time and time again from the quicksand that seems to be so often, rising up to our necks.  I am learning these and so much more, every day.

God is not only the God of “second chances,” but of third, fourth and an infinite number of chances where an intervention takes place, and a new awareness, where a new life is reimagined and experienced.  Have you ever had someone come up to you and ask, “have you been born again?”  I certainly have, and almost always, the statement always makes me annoyed and uncomfortable.  First of all, as a Catholic, this type of phrase is not common in our lexicon. Secondly – I have to know, more and more, that we are not “born again,” but more so, we are “born again, and again, and again, and again …”  What happened to me in the fall of 2007 was a prompting of the Spirit, I believe, to awaken me to the reality of the presence of God in my life.  I give thanks and praise to God for the gift of life, that was restored to me.  And I am finding out that this restoration keeps taking place on a regular basis.

As the song tries to express – and it might be interesting to note that it was composed prior to these events happening – that this God of ours never, ever – gives up on us.  It is not in God’s nature to do so.  God cannot help but be the ongoing, merciful, and always-forgiving God that we celebrate.  It is so difficult to wrap our brains around this – that there is absolutely nothing too awful, too heinous, too horrific, too sinful that we can participate in that will separate us from the love of God.  We are always forgiven.  We are forgiven before we have what Paul refers to as our “momentary afflictions;’ we are forgiven in the very midst of our bad choices; and we are forgiven as a result.  This kind of forgiveness is so very difficult for us to offer to another, and at times even more challenging to offer to ourselves.  But nonetheless, we are the children of God, who is the God of second chances and ongoing mercy.

It is interesting, that while liturgical composers are not called to compose for their own self-interest, there are times when we as crafters of sung prayer need to be honest in admitting that the music we create often speaks to us in a personal way.  When I composed “The God of Second Chances” I had no idea at the time how it would speak to me and teach me much later.  Not to sound self-promoting, the song is prophetic in the sense that it has held some power and wisdom for not only me in the aftermath of my near-death experience; but as a result, it has spoken to and ministered to so many others as a result, after a period of time from its original creation.  That is what prophecy is.  It certainly is mystery as well.  A mystery that I give thanks for.

Pope Francis has taught us that mercy is the way of God. And that mercy, the offering of “second chances” and so many more chances and opportunities for restoration, are held as promises to and for us.  God provides this assurance.  May we do everything possible in our lives, to take up this same mission, to become as the song concludes, “children of God’s love.”  (11.20.17)   

This essay is an adapted excerpt from I Will Bring You Home: Songs of Prayer, Stories of Faith by David Haas (G-9617).  Copyright © 2018 GIA Publications, Inc. / www.giamusic.com.  Printed with permission.  All rights reserved.

SONG VIDEO: The God of Second Chances

CD: God is Here; Do Not Be Afraid, I Am With You; God Will Delight / MP3: X-63102 / Music: G-6688 

This essay is from I Will Bring You Home: Songs of Prayer, Stories of Faith by David Haas (G-9617).  Copyright © 2018 GIA Publications, Inc. / www.giamusic.com.  Printed with permission.  All rights reserved.

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