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The Drama of the Card Holder April 6, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Posts from the old CCM blog.
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The scene has been repeated many times in our house. My wife and I, playing cards, on the floor in the den. (I never understand why she refuses to play on our perfectly good kitchen table, instead taking some small but perverse measure of satisfaction in contorting my lumbar spine.) The game is one where you can lay down little sets of cards and score points. There I am, laying down pitiful little sets of cards as we go, marveling at how I seem to be winning the game. My wife was born with the rare recessive gene 174L-Q, known commonly as “Always Dealt the Best Cards”, so I rarely beat her. But behold, I have a little group of threes on the table, plus a run of 5-6-7-8, and she has nothing! Naturally, I start trash-talking. I add a Joker to my little set of 3’s, being sure to bend the card just enough so that it slaps the floor, stretch my arms back over my head, and rattle off a string of triumphant clichés: “Read ’em and weep! Who’s your Daddy? Guess it’s just my night. Better luck next time.” And then the best: “Boo-yah!” She is unfazed, perhaps even stifling a small giggle. I have eight cards on the table, maybe 10 in my hand, and she still has nary a card in front of her, and tons in her hand. My triumph eminent, I start mentally adding the points my eight cards will net me when she states, quite matter-of-factly, “I’m out”. Huh? I look up, and she has laid down every single card in her massive hand, save one, which she discards with just the right touch of dramatic flair. Only then do I remember: She’s a Card-Holder.

 You can play this card game one of two ways. You can lay down your little groups as soon as you form them, like I do, certain of scoring those points, but you also allowing your opponents to play off of your cards. No pressure, but not much reward, either. The other possibility is to keep all of your cards in your hand until you have a complete set. The Card-Holder. My conniving wife. She saves her cards, reveals nothing in her countenance of her impending victory, and then, with great flourish, lays all her cards down, discards, and leaves me stuck with a hand full of negative points. You can actually sometimes hear trumpets resound when she does this. Drives me crazy. It’s a risky move, because if I can manage to go out before she does, she has a hand full of cards that could have scored points for her, and instead they score against her. She is the risk taker. I get a couple of groups, my hands start shaking, and I nervously lay them down, stating, deflated, “I can’t handle the pressure.” Safe. Low risk.

 

I remember my retirement investment guy asking me once, “What level of risk are you comfortable with?” Are you kidding? I can’t handle holding a few cards in my hand and he wants me to risk my life savings on some volatile, cryptic theater of war called the Stock Market, with its hieroglyphic tickers and numinous bulls and bears? I am told that even though the market is so far down, riskier investments might yield greater return. I get stuck on the word “might”. Maybe I could learn a little something from the risk-takers. The Card Holders. There is some tenuous connection between risk and faith, and I could certainly use more faith. There are also lessons to be learned from the occasional failure and, of course, sweeter victories when the risk is rewarded. Perhaps risk does not automatically equal foolhardiness, but instead sometimes means one is confident that the path ahead, the narrow path, the one that not many have walked down, is the right path. Yes, you might lose it all, but maybe that’s the point. The Bible says whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it. This might be the paradoxical exhilaration of the Card-Holder. Stepping out in faith, risking it all, but confident of the prize.

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