Who is Standing at Your Sideline: In Need of Mercy, Grace, and a Second Chance?

On January 14, 2020, millions watched as Clemson and LSU played for the College Football Playoff National Championship. Excitement filled the air as both teams took to the field to compete for one of the biggest televised events of the year. As the game commenced to unravel, numerous life lessons began to emerge from a 100-yard classroom called a football field. 

In every football game, plays are executed which result in both positive and negative outcomes. Flags are thrown, time-outs are called, and mistakes are made. Yet these moments create opportunities for players, coaches, and fans to respond either positively or negatively to the results.

With only a few minutes remaining in the game, Clemson’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, fumbled the ball. As the entire nation watched, the young man made his way to the sidelines where Clemson’s head coach stood watching and waiting. Yet how Coach Dabo Swinney responded to the young man’s fumble will forever be remembered in the hearts of many—especially in the heart of one young man standing on that sideline.

Post-Game Interview

As reporters filled the room for the post interview, Swinney took his seat. As correspondents prepared to ask their specific questions to the coach, one particular inquiry immediately grabbed my attention. In regard to Lawrence’s fumble, one reporter was curious to know what the coach had to say to the young man as he entered the sidelines. The reporter asked, “What did you tell him?” Swinney responded, “I just told him to keep his head up. I told him that I loved him, and this was a great opportunity to lead and to respond.”


Observation One: Swinney placed more value on Lawrence’s life than on his fumble. 


He did not look outwardly to the mistake but inwardly to the young man’s heart.

Swinney immediately sought to encourage Lawrence. He stated, “Keep your head up.” Swinney told him he appreciated him, as well as his fight, grit and will.

Swinney reinforced his belief in the young man by reminding him that he was loved.

Swinney pointed the young man to look toward the opportunity that was in front of him, instead of focusing on the fumble that was behind him. His was an opportunity to lead and respond well.

Second Observation: Swinney responded positively about Lawrence, instead of negatively, while a nation watched.  


With a nation watching, Coach Dabo Swinney conveyed encouraging words that built up Lawrence, instead of damaging ones intended to tear him down.  

-Swinney pointed others to the good in the young man’s life, to his many accomplishments, and to his character. He alluded to how special Lawrence was.

-Swinney expressed his confidence in the young man by stating, “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”

Jesus, the Greatest Sideline Coach of All-Time!

Throughout the Bible we read of countless individuals who found themselves standing at a sideline with Jesus. Well, maybe not a 100-yard sideline, but a life-altering moment type of sideline—a moment where grace was desperately needed and mercy begged for. As we take a quick glance as some familiar stories from God’s Word, note how Jesus placed more value and emphasis on people’s lives and their callings than He did on their mistakes.  

Peter denied Christ at a most crucial time. He probably thought his ministry days were over. But one day, as he returned to his profession of fishing, Jesus met him where he was, restored him, then encouraged him to get back to doing what he had been called to do. 

David, a man after God’s own heart, dove head first into an adulterous relationship, then murder, then running from the God who had loved him and had led him throughout all his life. Yet God met him in his disobedience. David repented, and God restored him and used him greatly.

The woman caught in adultery was thrown on the ground before Jesus. Yet instead of experiencing the shame and condemnation she had from others, she experienced the love of a Savior. He directed her to go and sin no more. He saw value while others saw only her sin.

At one time or another we have all found ourselves standing at a sideline with Jesus in need of His mercy and His grace. From fumbles to poor decisions, we have knelt on bended knees, pleading for God to forgive us, restore us, and even grant us a new beginning or a restored relationship. And during such moments, Jesus met us there with both mercy and grace.

Today, I want to leave us with a sobering question to consider: are we as quick to give mercy and grace to those who have made mistakes toward us personally?

Not too long ago I found myself in a conversation with a godly minister who taught me a life changing principle. There were people at one of his previous churches who had been scattered from the fold due to past wounds that had never been healed. Instead of being discouraged over the particular scene, the godly man chose to minister to their wounded hearts by reaching out rather than retreating. The minister stated, “I am trying to bring them back on the team.” He later concluded, “They have value to this ministry.” While others saw individuals as troublesome, this man saw them as having value and a place on the team. He recognized that they were useful for kingdom-building. In this moment, I didn’t see that minister; I saw Jesus.

I left that meeting convicted of how I had treated people in the past but was also inspired to be proactive in showing people the Savior’s love. You see, I have always been quick to dismiss, instead of embrace, to offer cold shoulders instead of ones on which people can lean. Yet after this meeting, I walked up to a sideline of my own, where Jesus was waiting to deal with a heart that had certainly handled some matters poorly with others. And there, yet once again, I found His mercy and His grace. I knew instantly that He wanted me to show others the same.

Instead of giving the world our opinions, let’s give the world Jesus.

We can certainly learn valuable lessons from Coach Dabo Swinney and the godly minister about dealing with those standing at our sidelines. But nothing and no one will ever teach or conform a heart like Jesus. And when our hearts are overtaken by His transformation, we too will respond to others in a way that will bring lasting impact. A person will reflect what is on the inside of his or her heart, and those reflections will either draw people to Jesus or scatter them away.

Who is standing at your sidelines right now? Who has blown it with you? Who needs your grace, your mercy? A second chance? May we never cease to give what has been given to us over and over by our Savior: love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

Lord, help us to never forget all the times that You have met us at Your own sidelines of life. May we never cease to give mercy and grace to others who have made mistakes that have directly impacted us personally. Help us to seek unity instead of disunity, restoration instead of retreat. In Jesus’ name, amen.

‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Blog written by: O’Shea Lowery

2 thoughts on “Who is Standing at Your Sideline: In Need of Mercy, Grace, and a Second Chance?”

  1. So powerful! Thank you, Shea! Bonus that I’m a Clemson Mom and huge Dabo Swinney fan because he builds character & life into the young men.


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