By Ben Moore: When I was 7 years old, my dad paid me the first compliment I can remember being really and truly proud of.  It was at the end of a basketball game; I was playing and he was coaching.  He told me that he needed my best, and that if I gave him my best he knew we would win.

Dad has told that story a lot over the years, and it is one that has defined me in many ways.  It actually became a pattern on the teams my dad would coach and I would play on.  I wouldn't really give it my all for most of the game, but then dad would say:  “Ben, I really need you now.  I really need you to give it everything you’ve got.” I'd do it, we'd win, and he'd be proud of me.

This became my identity -- the fact that I could just kind of coast and get by until that moment when I would kick it into gear. It made me feel special, and I started treating the rest of my life like that.  I'd slack off in school, and then pull off something amazing at the very last minute. When I got to college, I nearly failed out in one semester.  Later, when I started seminary in 2002, the cycle repeated.  Coast, pick it back up, and get away with it.

I made it two more semesters before I finally self-destructed, and the pride that made me feel special almost took away everything that mattered to me.

My girlfriend had been warning me for years that my pride would eventually catch up with me.  After those two semesters, tragedy struck, and I found myself overwhelmed.  The senior minister of my church, where I was a youth minister, died suddenly.  My pride pushed me to take on more duties while also dealing with my own emotional trauma, all while going to school.  Instead of seeking help, I just tried to "kick it into gear" -- and I couldn’t do it.  At the end of the semester, I was kicked out of school for failing grades, and had to move out of my seminary apartment.

Now that my girlfriend of 5 years knew she was right about her warnings, she would surely break up with me.  My church would send me and my failed pride packing. And my dad, who'd always been so proud of how I could come through at the end, would be ashamed that I couldn't get through school.  The thing I had found my identity in had fallen apart-- a false identity, a failed foundation.

Thankfully, it didn't turn out that way.  My girlfriend wasn't happy -- who can blame her -- but she stuck by me (we're married 7 years now).  My church kept me.  And my parents weren't ashamed; instead, they reminded me that there was a future.

I was surrounded by people who practiced the power of forgiveness, and it helped me leave that other identity behind.  When my girlfriend stayed, it let me know that she'd never leave me just because I failed.  When my church kept me, it showed me that I had worth, even in the midst of failure.  And my parents helped me see that I'd been loved all along, simply for who I was.

I graduated from seminary and was ordained three years ago.  Old habits die hard, and I still put too much off until the last moment, but I see it as something to change, not to take pride in.  I am trying to make the most of my second chances by simply being me, and accepting that I have still have messes to clean.

I am able to be who I am today not because I deserve it, but because I am People of The Second Chance.

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