Physically, Stanley sat at the bar in the Paradise Lounge, staring at his Harvey Wallbanger, squandering his time. Metaphysically, he stood at the brink of Paradise, staring at the Hound of Heaven, squandering his chances. But the Hound was still in pursuit. Stanley turned and ran.
The bar tender was puzzled. Until tonight, he thought he had seen every kind of drinker and every kind of drunk. He had seen lots of patrons wrestle with their inner demons. But he had never seen one wrestle with the God of Jacob, and he didn’t know what he was looking at.
He just kept the Harvey Wallbangers coming.
And Stanley kept downing them. But they weren’t having the desired effect.
Like so many other atheists, agnostics, and backsliders who had been taken to church and Sunday School as a kid, Stanley was falling victim to God’s sneakiest promise: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”*
Stanley had been sent to one too many Vacation Bible Schools, he had sat through one too many sermons, he had heard one too many Scriptures read. And now after two failed marriages, shattered relationships with his children, and a career that had peaked years ago, he sat on a bar stool in the Paradise Lounge, running faster than he had ever run before. But the Hound ran faster still,;and every time Stanley stopped, the Hound became the Wrestler.
Running, stopping, panting, wrestling; running, stopping, panting, wrestling.
I don’t believe in you God.
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”**
OK, God, maybe you exist, but it’s too late for me. I’m not like those goody-two-shoes who toed the straight and narrow; I’m too far gone.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”***
OK, OK, maybe so, but there are things I don’t want to give up: the blondes, the brunettes, the red heads. Stanley smirked. The bartender rushed in: “Another?”
Stanley raised the Wallbanger to his lips, took a good gulp and heard “Will you really give up eternity to ‘enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season’?”****
Stanley froze in place. The bartender watched out of the corner of his eye while he muddled the mint and lime for someone’s Mojito.
Stanley stopped running. He turned to face the Wrestler for the last time.
In a last ditch effort, his mind—with a little help from a certain ancient scripture quoter—latched upon a verse it had encounter it knew not where: “Curse God and die.”*****
God, if you even exist, if you are anything more than a voice in my head, GO TO HELL!
“Stanley, I exist, and I am more than a voice in your head. I’ve been to Hell—and back—Stanley, so that you can go to Heaven. So what’s it going to be, the Paradise Lounge or Paradise?”
*Isa. 55:10-11, NASB.
** Ps. 14:1, NASB
***Rom. 3:23, NASB
****Heb. 11:25, NASB
*****Job 2:9, NASB
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