The dictionary defines “Endgame” as the ‘final stage of a game such as chess, when few pieces remain to be played.”
I talked to two men this week about the endgame. Two different men, in two different towns, on two different occasions. I sat across from one of them, as we ate lunch together. And I sat in front of the other one while he cut my hair.
At lunch on Monday, I met the first man at a small, Chinese eatery. We ordered chicken chop suey and sipped oolong tea, chatting about the weather and the Fall season, and how the leaves are starting to turn colors. But before too many moments had passed, we both I suppose, realized that an awkward ‘something’ was sitting at table with us. If I looked closely, in fact, I could see that something on the side of his neck and the top of his shoulder. He pointed it out to me; a swelling that was easy to notice, once he pointed it out. Cancer. The man I was sharing Chinese food with had Stage-IV, Mantle-cell, non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The other man I talked with this week was my barber. We live in the country, and the barber shop I go to is a local ‘gathering’ place for ranchers, farmers, and guys that work hard with their hands. Ordinary guys, sitting in a little shop, waiting to get their hair cut, reading the morning paper, and occasionally talking about a gun they own, or a fish they caught. But this week, when I came in and took a chair, waiting my turn in the que to get my haircut, I heard a conversation I had never heard in any barbershop before. Talk of procedures, and examinations, and test results. The man cutting hair had been to his doctor the week before, and now, more tests had been ordered. A surgeon had been contacted. “Speed is important,” the doctor had said. “We don’t want to wait on this.”
And so, the man who cuts hair for a living made an appointment with a doctor who cuts people for a living. And the barber was very un-nerved by it all.
When my turn came, I took my seat in the cushy chair. The drape across my front. The collar of tissue around my neck. I sat in silence, as my barber began his snipping. And, as the scissors snipped, the conversation began. Actually, it was more a monologue, really. He talked. I listened. He told me how old he was, and how he had a lot of things he still wanted to do. A boat he rarely used. A camper that hadn’t been on the road in nearly two years. Divorced, with no kids. He said he didn’t even have someone he could call, other than those guys who sit in his shop talking about guns they own, or some fish they caught. “It makes you think,” said the man.
“What makes you think?” I asked.
“When you think you might have a disease you could die from, it makes you think,” he said.
“And what does it make you think?” I asked him.
And he said, “It makes you wonder about your life, and the end-game; you know? How everything will finally end up.”
I will not tell you about the conversation that ensued from my encounter with my barber; how we talked about serious matters; eternal matters, and God and prayer and how the endgame was meant to be viewed. But I will tell you what the other man I talked to this week told me. As we sat eating Chinese food, drinking oolong tea, the man with stage IV lymphoma told me he had a great men’s bible study group praying for him, and he would love to get back to the study of God’s Word with them, if that’s what the Lord had in mind.
“But if this cancer is the end of my journey, I’m at peace with that. I know the end for me isn’t really the end. It’s the beginning of … forever.”
Two men, this week, contemplating their endgame; that stage of life when there are few moments left to be played. And Jesus, watched it all. In Rev. 21:6 He said, “…, It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”
And how we live the endgame, will determine how we begin … forever.