I have been drowning my sorrows at the Bar of Hell. Consumed by my own inadequacy and self-loathing. Even Jesus seems to have abandoned me. But just when I think I am completely, utterly, eternally alone, I hear a voice.
“Have a drink.”
Me: You?! Here!?
Father: Yes. I AM.
M. I thought Jesus Himself couldn’t stand to be around me.
F. No, He couldn’t sit there doing nothing. So He cleared the room so I could come.
I am throughly bewildered. The place still looks like Hell. I still feel like Hell. But my Father…
He looks like He owns the place. And even more shocking… like He’s happy to see me!
M. Um, uh, I, er, wasn’t exactly expecting to see You here. Sorry, to, ah, drag You down here.
F. Not at all! In fact, this is one of My favorite places to meet My kids.
M. Say what?!
F. What do you think I want most?
M. Um, a relationship with Your kids?
F. Close enough. And what do you think is the greatest barrier to that?
This answer I knew.
M. Sin! Sex. Drunkeness. Orgies. Worldly indulgence. Carnal attitudes.
F. Oh sure, those things grieve my heart, because they can corrode your spirit. But frankly, they often do as much good as harm.
M. Come again?
F. Most people pursue those things because they are hungry for connection. And frankly, when My children try them — and find they don’t satisfy — they are often far more ready to turn to Me.
M. My head hurts. You’re not making any sense. I think I’ve had too much to drink.
F. Actuality, you haven’t had enough.
He gestured to the wooden cup He had placed in front of me when He first spoke. I had been so shocked at His arrival I hadn’t even noticed.
M. Um, is that what I think it is?
F. You guessed it. The Holy Grail. The New Covenant. The Last Supper. The Final Cup.
M. But… I thought that was for the pure of heart. The ascetic. The devoted. The ones who gave up all worldly pleasures out of love for you.
F. Not even close. To be sure, there is a place of honor in My Kingdom for such as those. But worthy as they are, they are not able to drink this cup.
M. I’m sorry, are you saying I am? You have got to be kidding me. Don’t you know where we are? What I did to get here? What I’ve been doing since I got here?
F. Yes. Practicing!
M. Practicing what? Abusing my body? Destroying my liver? Corroding my soul? Avoiding my pain?
F. Drinking a bitter cup.
I stare at Him in horror.
M. You don’t mean…
F. Yes. This the cup of suffering that Jesus Himself asked that I take away from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. I offer it to you now.
M. But… why… how?
F. Because you have been foolish enough to drink from every cup this world has to offer. Pleasure. Power. Prestige. Purity. Pride. And yet wise enough to realize that none of them satisfy. In fact, they make you thirstier than ever.
M. But… this? How can I possibly…
F. Here. Let me show you.
He slides His hand over the cup, looking for all the world like a street hustler hiding a coin. When He is done, I am astonished to see an enormous bucket, and a tiny thimble.
As I watch in horror, the Lord of the Universe begins to chug a bucket of all the world’s agony, like a fraternity pledge guzzling beer on Spring Break. It’s like I can see all the cruelty and selfishness and evil that ever happened — including my own — pouring down His throat.
It is obvious that the pain must be indescribable. Yet He never stops. In fact, the gleam in His eyes glows ever brighter. Despite the unspeakable awfulness of the experience, I see a joy emerging from deep within Him.
Joy beyond anything I ever imagined.
Joy that is worth risking everything for.
Joy I would do anything to share.
If I have a Father who is willing to do that for me…
M. Wait for me!
Seized with a sudden resolve, I grab the tiny cup and hurl its contents down my throat.
A powerfully-built young man stands on the walls of Athens. His face is torn between Hope and Sorrow. He has clearly been there a while, staring into the west as the sun sets. Finally he sighs and turns to return home.
Just before he descends he glances back for one last forlorn look. Then freezes. He dashes to the wall, straining to make out distant details. Suddenly seized with certainty, he claps his hands and jumps for joy. He barely restrains the impulse to jump directly down the wall, but dashes back to the stairs and out the gate. His gleeful shouts trail in the air behind him. “He’s back! He’s here! Socrates has returned!”