“On a warm summer’s eve on a train bound for nowhere; I met up with a gambler…he began to speak…’Son I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces; knowin’ what the cards were by the way they held their eyes. So if you don’t mind my sayin’ I can see you’re out of aces. For a taste of your whisky I’ll give you some advice…If you’re gonna play the game, boy you gotta learn to play it right…Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’ is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep…You got to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, know when to run…And in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.” (The Gambler; by Kenny Rogers)
Dubby was sixty-one years old when he enrolled in our outpatient hospice program. Dubby dropped out of school his senior year and enlisted in the Army. He served in Korea as a missile operator and retired from the railroad as a machinist. Dubby is a “good ole’ boy”. He loves fishing, boating, sports and drinking with his friends. He would have fit in well with “Waylon and Willie and the boys”.
Dubby lives with his daughter, Lisa. He still get’s out and around a little but admitted, “I’m just so tired”; and he asked me, “How much time do you think I have?” But of course I couldn’t, and therefore didn’t, answer that question.
A few weeks ago Lisa confided, “I just couldn’t stand it if dad died and I didn’t know whether or not he made peace with God; but it’s really hard to talk with him about it; but I’m working on him”. I volunteered to give it a shot too. So during my next visit, as we sat alone on the front porch, I asked Dubby, “How are you spiritually?” and he replied, “I have an ace in the hole”. When I asked Dubby what his ace was he grinned and confessed, “Not really. That’s just what I tell people to get them off my back.”
Well, I got off Dubby’s back, but he’s been on my mind ever since. I’ve been thinking about how we all have to play the hand we’re dealt; and in light of the eternal stakes involved, we better “play it right”.
I’ve been thinking about how the “secret of survivin’” really is “knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep”. Jesus said it this way, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospels will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:35-37)
I’ve been thinking about, “when the dealin’s done”. Are we willing to bet our lives that God and His Word are wrong; that He’s only bluffing? Will the cards we’re holding on that day be good enough?” There’s the “I went to church” card; “I faithfully gave to the church”; “I tried to treat everybody right” card; “I was baptized” card and the “I’m as good as the next guy” card. If we’re counting on any of these cards to take the pot, I’m afraid we’re gonna “read’em and weep!” Don’t take my word for it; listen to the words that Jesus spoke about those who are counting on being good enough or doing enough good: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name… and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me…” (Matthew 7:21-23) Man! I sure don’t want to hear those words when the dealin’s done, do you?
And I’ve been thinking about how, sooner or later, we’re all going to “run out of aces”. But the “Good News” is that in Jesus’s words we can find an ace that we can keep; “He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst…and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:35-40)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.