Sacrifice Brings Forth The Blessings Of Heaven

Was reading Gregory Hood’s post and this passage in particular struck me with reference to Christianity in the West:

 

The spiritual core of the contemporary West is thus a kind of depraved burlesque show, with God alternately denied, turned against us, or somehow both simultaneously.

 

The phrase “turned against us” in particular struck me.  It made me consider the opposite:  what does a civilization that imagines God on their side talk like?

 

Good luck!  And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. ~Eisenhower, message to troops before D-Day

 

I don’t mean to whitewash the Allies during WWII, but I do think that civilization was in a better state then than it is now.  So this is a worthwhile comparison.

Note the use of the word beseech.  That is a beta word, and I mean that as the highest compliment.  Beseeching is begging.

There’s a line in a hymn my church favors—the title of this post: “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”  Sacrifice empowers us to ask the Almighty’s aid.

 

Why?  Perhaps the place to start is: why not?  Why do people who ostensibly believe in a loving God fear to invoke His blessings?

Sin, duh.  The same reason you don’t ask for a raise after you lost the big account, or your allowance after you crashed the family car.

There’s an uncertainty in peoples’ minds: if I approach God as I am, I may receive the asked-for blessing, but I may instead get (well-deserved) divine wrath.  Better to try and slog it out on my own.

It’s the uncertainty that stops them from approaching.  When people are actually enduring adversity they eventually wise up and humble themselves.  When things are OK for now but declining, they tend to live on a sea of denial and procrastinate consequences to the future.

The remedy to this is to take the uncertainty out of it.

Sacrifice is hard.  That’s the point.  Money, time, pride…it hurts to let any of those go.  It’s so hard that you have to change your heart just to be able to do it.  And that is the real objective of sacrifice:  changing hearts.  If you are ready and willing to accept justified divine wrath for your sins, then that overcomes the one obstacle stopping you from approaching the throne of grace for…well, grace.

The goal here is not to win over God to our side with a show of sacrifice.  Rather, it is for us to join His side—and to know it, such that we fear nothing God will do, because we agree with it, even if it means the end of us:

 

This is why it seems harder to believe that God is on the side of the West than it used to be.  Not because we sin—everyone does—but because we’re not certain that we’re on His side.  What have we sacrificed?  Not lust or pride, at any rate.

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You’re Going to Lose

Last post I talked about two experiences I had that serve as types for life: playing boring board games with weird people and making it (as much as possible) fun for their sake, and sitting in a hot tub with cool people.  You should read it.  No, seriously.  Here.

Now, what were we talking about in that hot tub that interested me so?

(eyeroll)  Game, duh.

Ok, so it wasn’t game.  It was “social dynamics.”

In particular, those of my alma mater, BYU.  For a town as insignificant as Provo, UT, some of its inhabitants sure don’t seem to think so.  While many (most) of its students are sensible, kind, and down to earth, there are certain apartment complexes in which the residents are, um…not.  Spray tans and hair gel abound.  This wouldn’t be so bad except that, needless to say, beautiful women instinctively flock to this place:

So here I am in this hot tub talking about Babylon-in-Zion.

And one of the things we note is that its natural residents can tell if you belong or not:

I was at this party and I thought, whatever, I’ll just talk to some random girl.  And there’s this girl standing next to me, who is (of course) drop-dead gorgeous, and I say, So who do you know here?  And she says, Oh, I know this person, that person, and that person, etc., pointing around the room.  And I say, Oh, cool, I know those guys over there in the lederhosen.  And she looks at me and says, I don’t know that word, and turns away.

Reader, I laughed, I cried!  Because I moved to these complexes on purpose, thinking, “Oh, they can’t be that bad,” and the above story, while told by a friend of mine, pretty much sums up my experience.  They were that bad.

But back to the sixth sense.  Could the residents really smell fear on you, i.e. what was it that made it so hard to “pass” among them?

One thing we agreed on was that they were clannish.  They understood what we so seldom tell people for fear of discouraging generosity: when you associate with uncool people, in any capacity, you very often become less cool yourself—the only exception being predatory behavior.  In a population raised to care for the one, they had grasped the truth that sticking with the ninety and nine is more profitable, less risky, and looks better.

So first of all: we weren’t necessarily experiencing special exclusion.  Their default was to close ranks.

Second of all: No sixth sense is necessary when outsiders do you the favor of marking themselves by playing Operation with weird people.

* * *

“Adam’s curse was to be forced to choose between the bad, and the probably impossible.” ~ “Long Shots, Reserves

* * *

There is an Isaac Asimov story, The Evitable Conflict, in which an enormous, benevolent computer has just been entrusted with control of the world’s industries.  Efficiency, total output, and quality have all skyrocketed.  Some people don’t like a Machine running things, but in general, humanity’s future looks very bright.

Except…there are problems.  Shortages.  Overages.  Nothing catastrophic, but much worse than the perfection expected of the machine.

The Planetary Administrator tours the world, questioning the Continental Administrators.  He finds that some undersupervisors have disobeyed Multivac (though they protest that they haven’t), and have been demoted as such.  Still, the Machine ought to have been able to account for that.

What he realizes eventually is that nothing is wrong.  The Machine fed false information to those undersupervisors with anti-Machine tendencies, in order to keep them away from positions from which they could ever injure the Machine.

* * *

And so: we see generous people derided for their generosity, the proud uplifted for their pride, the wicked prospering.  I have been around this corner of the internet for seven years ever since I had a crush on a girl in my sociology class and found a Neil Strauss article.  I’ve applied my knowledge in the real world, within the constraints of chastity.  I will say: generally, if Roissy says something will work, it will work.

Our task is, knowing everything we know, to basically do the opposite of what Roissy says.  And like I just said, it will most likely not work.  In the choice between the bad and the probably impossible, we’re supposed to do the probably impossible.  And we will probably fail.  Play enough Operation, and it will stick to you.  That’s how people grow old: they get heartbroken, or have kids.

But we have the rumor that this state of affairs is not going to last forever.

Maybe after all this is over you and I can wake from the dream and be young men together again.

The Hot Tub And The Board Game

I went to a church activity (YSA FHE for those in the know) a few nights ago.  Frankly, I don’t feel like I get much benefit from them: the spiritual lesson is often bland and superficial, and the company frankly leaves much to be desired.

But I don’t go for me.  I go because the company needs me.

This week was, alas, particularly lame.  Those in charge had set up a bunch of tables, put a board game on each one, and set us loose.  I should mention that this gathering was (unusually) 95% dudes.

But hey.  Ridiculous gender ratios actually take the pressure off: forget talking to chicks, and make the best of it.  So I sat down with a friend to play Operation.  Yep, that one.  For the record, I am twenty-eight years old.

As we sat down to play (ironically, of course), the mostly-retarded guy in the congregation wandered over.  We told him to play with us, because we’re nice people.  Then the insanely shy and socially incompetent guy came over too.  We told him to play, he demurred, and we told him to play a bit more forcefully, because we knew he’d otherwise go to his iPad and dammit he needed the social interaction, even if it was playing Operation with three dudes on a Monday night.

(Operation is an OK game if you’re 8.  Some pretty bad puns.  But there is a bit of thrill of accomplishment from manipulating plastic out of the hollows without touching the sides)

I’m no angel.  It’s not like I really enjoyed this.  But I forced some enthusiasm,and we played a whole game through, praising them when they did well.  And they had fun, and felt included.

I hadn’t had dinner, so I was hungry.  I mentioned to my friend that I was going to get some Panda Express immediately after.  He said, “Hey, just come over to my place and we’ll go hot tubbing with some friends of mine.”  So I did.

Also dudes.  But cool dudes, with their own thoughts and opinions on important topics I cared about.  We talk, and it’s fun.

I did way more good playing the board game with the weirdos.  But I felt way better sitting in a hot tub talking with good peers.

It was similar when I was a missionary.  You spend all day on the streets talking to either weirdos or people who think you are a weirdo, and this is when you actually have the chance to do some good.  Then every few weeks they gather all the missionaries together and build you up and you remember that you have a calling from God and you feel great, except that no good is done during this time, all the good stuff you did happened when you felt like a fool out there.

You can’t spend all your time playing board games with socially maladjusted people or you’ll either become one of them or kill yourself.  But neither can you spend all your time hanging out in a hot tub because if you do then what good are you?

Apply as necessary.  And remember the analogy here, because I’ll use it in an upcoming post.  Happy New Year.