Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
On ESPN SportsCenter there was an up close profile on a professional poker player, a guy named The Mouth. Maybe some of you have heard of him. I haven’t, until now. His story goes that he got involved with poker and gambling in 1993, and now his lives for it. He’s lived for it 13 years. During that time, he has lost over 4 million dollars, not to mention going to jail at least once. It was hard to pay total attention to the story because I was getting dressed for work. However, one statement caught me:
“Playing poker is better than sex. It is the strongest drug in the world.”
Wow. I’m a guy. I know the place sex holds on most male priority charts. Poker? Everything I was thinking, trying to find words as the show went on, searching for any words that might paint the real story right (the one of the heart), he simply spoke for me. He did as good of a job reading his own soul than anyone could have. I felt sorry for him. He gets it. He understands. And yet, he doesn’t know his way out of the dark hole; nor does he want out.
“If they had had internet poker while I was in jail, I would not have ever cared to leave.”
That paints a vivid picture for me. Chains. The darkness of a cell. Damp. The lack of human connection or relationship. Shutting others out. One phone call every now and then. I know the pull of a drug. I have lived just like him, not with poker, but with other things. I’ve spent time watching men throw money away week after week to bet on the latest college football games, only to be hundreds of dollars in debt. Addiction. What a thrill it is to experience just a few moments of ache-free living.
Another word comes to mind, one that seems to loom in a realm deeper than addiction: Adventure. We were made for it, you know. Whether we look for it in good places or bad, the design for it leads to the desire to pursue it. I have the opportunity to spend time with a good number of 11 and 12 year old boys. On average, it takes about 0.5 seconds to recognize the design and desire for adventure in them. I hear stories…blowing up fireworks, hunting for deer, shooting BB guns at each other in the back yard, riding four-wheelers (they never fail to let me know how fast they are going)…the list could go on.
I wonder what sorts of games The Mouth played when he was 11 or 12. Were his choices of adventures pure and fun then? When did he pick up his first deck of cards? Surely the first game of UNO was just for fun. Did he know the well he was digging when he bet his first dollar? What happened to his friends along the way as he kept digging? What damage was done? Does he have any friends now?
Picture Jesus sitting down to play a game of cards with him (I know some can’t fathom Christ playing cards). Not for money, just for fun. What would the table conversation be like? I said before that The Mouth knew himself just as well as anyone. But not Jesus. Would The Mouth know what to do when Jesus offered him a taste of adventure that is more real and true than the broken well in which he lives?