He calmly walked into the room; just a slight hint of swagger recognizable. Dressed in casual fit jeans, scuffed Tony Lama’s, and a denim shirt one size larger than needed, he was dressed for the role right down to his dark shades and Chicago Bears ball cap.
The game didn’t matter; not as long as he could feel the adrenaline surging through his pronounced veins. Cards, dice, horses, sports; it was all the same to him. He was a gambler.
Sure, people had tried to reform him. Plenty of times. But they just couldn’t understand; he didn’t gamble because he enjoyed it any more than he enjoyed breathing. No, he gambled because that’s what gamblers do. And that’s what he was.
In the past he had tried to tally his winnings and losses. Maybe that could shake something loose, causing him to possibly change. But he never could remember all those figures. I mean, how does a person begin to remember how many breaths they’ve taken in a lifetime? It’s just something they do.
It’s what he does.
Because of who he is.
As he stood inside the large, shadowless room, something struck him as odd. Every other game room, poker parlor, and smoke-filled casino he’d frequented in the past had contributed to his gambling urge; stoking his inner fire, feeding his untamed desire to risk it all. There was nothing he wouldn’t sacrifice for the opportunity to win big. And he didn’t really need to win each time; not if he could keep running the risk, playing the odds, feeling the rush.
The gambler’s rush.
Yes, this room was different. It didn’t stir the urge or settle him down. Actually, it unnerved him; maybe even scared him a bit. He’d met a man earlier that day, a man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, who invited him to a high stakes game. The man gave him the address, and after reminding the gambler to bring everything he had, turned and walked away. Intrigued by the sudden appearance and the strange invitation, he decided to check it out.
Peering through his dark glasses, he scanned the room for any familiar faces. What? Where is everyone? Where are all the other gamblers? Am I early? No, right on time, he thought as he glanced at his wristwatch.
Just then, appearing as suddenly as he had earlier, he saw the man who had issued the invitation.
“I see you found the place.”
“Yes, but where is the game? Where are all the other gamblers?”
“You’ll find this game is different. Tonight’s game is for you only. Did you bring everything?”
“Oh sure. Do you take checks?”
“Sorry. Money isn’t what’s being gambled tonight. You’re not risking your finances, your car, or your home. Not this evening.”
The gambler tried to keep his composure, but even wearing his dark shades, one could see his poker face morph into a pale, nervous, twitch. He was definitely spooked.
“Who are you?”, he asked the man.
“Never mind that, right now anyway. Are you ready to gamble?”
“I, uh, I guess so.”
“Alright. I’m going to ask you a question. Answer correctly and you win. What are you willing to wager?”
“You already told me I can’t use money. What can I use?” The gambler couldn’t believe how nervous he was feeling.
“Only one thing. Your life. All or nothing.”
“Silence! Don’t you realize what’s happened to you? You actually died earlier today, without warning, without any fanfare. The game you thought you were playing is over. No second chance. No borrowing from the bank. You’re flat busted, dead broke.”
The gambler’s glasses were off, lying on the floor. He just stared at the man, wanting to speak, but no words came out.
The man continued, “You have gambled away the most precious thing you own; your life. I sent people to you at various times in your life, trying to get your focus away from winning things, people, or money. I’ve spoken to you as you were sleeping, while you were driving, and yes, during some of your high stakes games. I’ve tried to get you to understand my love for you. I love you so much, but you treated my message as a game.
“I asked you the question over and over, ‘What will you do with the One called Jesus? What will you do with the gospel?’ You gambled, played the odds as you saw them. And you lost.”
As the man finished speaking, the gambler was turned by an invisible hand. No longer was the room flooded with light. It had become dark and dank, yet heat and flames were beginning to rise through the door he had walked through not long before.
He gambled because that was who he was. Only now, he was no longer a gambler.
He was a loser.