Br Nathan Wayne, LC
Six years ago I sauntered into a whitewashed seminary conference room in my flip-flops, American Eagle cargo shorts, and Ralph Lauren polo thinking, ”How weird will this week will be! I can’t believe I’m here.”
If there is one thing that is addictive about gambling it’s that rush you get when you have to risk everything in order to take home the pot. But like most things in life, taking risks and getting hooked on it is not always a bad thing. Following Christ is the plus non plus ultra of going all-in on a gamble. Following Christ is the only gamble in life that we think we can’t ever get hooked on because it seems so distasteful, difficult and foreboding. Who likes following a man who tells you to take up your cross anyway?
Yet there is one astronomical difference that would place following Christ beyond the scope of gambling. We already have been told we will win. In a gamble you don’t know when to go all-in, or what the other players have. In Christianity we do know. We know to go all-in because the Dealer, God, has told us he already has won it for us.
The risk I took by walking into that seminary was much like that. My reputation with my friends back home, my hopes of going off to have fun at college, my dreams of becoming a doctor or businessman were all at risk of being tarnished by visiting this seminary in suburban Connecticut. If you want to shock people in today’s word, go visit a seminary and tell them you’re thinking of becoming a priest. For sure their mouths will drop in astonishment.
During that week at the Legion of Christ seminary none of those 20 to-be seminarians made one comment behind my back or anyone else’s. I was shocked to see everyone actually complementing each other. Shocked to see teenagers and young college students actually living the Gospel. No dirty jokes, just a lot of good clean fun.
I remember one of the seminarians who was in his sixth year, giving me my first glance at what it meant to gamble for Christ. He went into the kitchen while we were in a conference one night. After the conference was over we usually had a little snack. I was flabbergasted when I saw him walk into the room with a huge smile on his face and a tray of piping hot cinnamon rolls in his hands. I wasn’t hit so much by the fact that he made these for us as much as how he acted when entering the room with them. While we, like most teenage guys, lunged at the tray swiping away our own gooey cinnamon roll, this brother just smiled and went around offering more rolls to the younger seminarians. He did not take one cinnamon roll himself until everyone else was done.
It was the shock of seeing that simple charity which opened my eyes to a self-giving charity. A charity that makes a person want to give his whole life. I thought to myself, “I’d be willing to die beside men like that for my faith.” It was then, thinking of giving my whole life to God in the priesthood, that I felt a rush, much like one does in gambling.
The good life—the holy life, I should say—is worth taking a bite of. The funny thing is that sometimes we are more afraid of taking the ‘holy guy’ path more than we are of biting into any other lifestyle. But we all know Christ wants us to go all-in; to give him a shot, even if the chips are down. The chips might look down through modern shades, but guaranteed you’ll steal the pot of your life if you take this bet. We all know we have two cards: the Joker of our decision and the Ace of God’s grace; not a bad hand when out comes the King of the Universe, the Queen of Heaven, and your Heart in-ten-ding to take the Straight lane to Heaven’s gate.
Looking back on that nineteen-year-old stepping into that whitewashed seminary room brings back a lot of memories. I haven’t heard from any of those seminarians, whether they continued on or not, that it wasn’t worth going all-in. Even though for most people today, choosing to follow Christ in the priesthood is about as ludicrous as it gets, giving God my life has brought me a happiness I never thought possible. Whether I win the game of life or not is still to be seen, but knowing what it means to gamble on the ‘holy’ path and that it does win happiness, I can’t say ‘I didn’t know.’ The Dealer told me, and he tells all of us, how and when to go all-in.
Br Nathan is on internship helping out with youth work in Canada.
Photo credit: by Alfonso Benayas on flickr