Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Make Sure It's Voluntary

I've been thinking a lot about how hard it is to maintain the voluntary nature of a sacrifice when the pain and suffering are mounting.  To keep our heart and our motives pure instead of flipping to selfishness and envy is so intensely difficult when the sacrifice we're making is bleeding the life out of us.

Sacrifice & Adversity
Just to be clear about what I mean when I use the word sacrifice:  It is the expenditure of energy.  When we physically work, we’re sacrificing the available energy in our body in order to accomplish a task.  When we have to endure adversity of any kind, we also expend spiritual energy. We give up our peace. Sometimes we bring these sacrifices upon ourselves.  Sometimes they are forced upon us.  Bad things happen to us.  They happen to really bad people and really good people and everyone in between.  It’s how we respond to that adversity that makes us who we are.  Do we submit to the burden that’s placed upon our shoulders and willingly expend that energy to resolve it the best we can because that was our voluntary agreement when we chose to come to this earth?  Or do we fight against it and begrudge it because we don’t have any recollection that we agreed to endure adversity in order to receive all the other blessings this life would bring us?

"For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God." ~Moroni 7:8

The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Voluntary Sacrifice is what Jesus Christ did.  It is what he exemplified when he was faced with adversity.  He wasn't hanging there on the cross hating everyone and feeling sorry for himself and thinking his lot in life was not fair.  He wasn't contemplating revenge or escape.  He was taking it willingly, assigning the cause to his Father, knowing the Father could release him at any time.  Indeed, our Savior could have released himself at any time as was seen when he was the one who decided when it was finished and “gave up the ghost.”  Inside, he was allowing all of this pain and suffering to happen to him without changing his love to hatred and bitterness.  He remained steadfast in Voluntary Sacrifice.

"No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." ~John 10:18

"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." ~John 19:28-30

In order to keep the sacrifice voluntary, we can only sacrifice within our Threshold or our Zone to do it.  Beyond that, the voluntary ability of our heart ends.  It involuntarily turns to fighting the sacrifice or making it a grudge sacrifice.  And the only valuable sacrifice is one that is done under voluntary conditions.  If it is not voluntary it does not create sustainable results on the side of the sufferer or on the side of those for whom the sacrifice is being done.  Jesus Christ had the capacity to Voluntarily Sacrifice within his Threshold for all the rest of us, both physically and spiritually.  I’m sure it took him to his very limits, but he did it.  He accomplished the Atonement!

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." ~John 16:33

All that is required of us is to sacrifice within our Threshold.  Anything more or less than this does no good.  Understanding these rules behind sacrifice enables me to understand better what Christ did for us.  It astounds me but it's not beyond my comprehension.  It's something I can comprehend because I have suffered to the extremes of my own Threshold.  I know the voluntary/forced fight that goes on inside me.  Sometimes I can’t keep it voluntary no matter what I do and my adversity is no where near what His was!  This is why we can empathize with Christ and he with us.

"And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." ~Alma 7:12

“We should not assume … that just because something is unexplainable by us it is unexplainable.” ~Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoted by Elder M. Russell Ballard

It’s Like Fitness 
I may not have the cardiorespiratory fitness that a marathon runner has. But I may feel the same discomfort and pain running a 5K, as a marathon runner would feel running a marathon.  That’s because a 5K may be my present capacity.  That’s what my body is trained to handle.  It may be that I have certain genetic weaknesses or certain injuries that make it so a 5K is just like a marathon for me.  The level of exertion I experience creates the intensity of the sacrifice.  I am aware of the battle that goes on between body and spirit when I get to the edge of my Threshold.  I can feel the battle of my motivation—voluntary vs. forced.  I feel what Christ did when he was at the edge of his.  I also feel what others feel when they are at the edge of theirs.  So I can empathize with them even if I haven’t gone through exactly what they are going through.  It’s physics.  Because I am weaker, I experience greater pain with less adversity.  Because Christ is stronger, he would experience less pain with my same level of adversity, but similar pain with the level of adversity that would push him to his Threshold edge.

Training to Increase Our Threshold
There is a range of balance in my cardiorespiratory and muscular Thresholds that needs to be maintained and challenged but not overcome throughout the training process.  If I take the time to be trained I can actually grow in my capacity.  Maybe right now I can’t even run a 5K.  But if I work up to it gradually and consistently, I will be able to do it.  I will be able to handle more adversity without crossing out of my Threshold.  My sacrifice will remain voluntary with greater intensities instead of turning into a grudge sacrifice.

I’ve had my Fitbit on for 20 days now.  It tracks a lot of things including my resting heart rate (RHR).  I’ve noticed this rate has incrementally dropped during the last 20 days as I exercise more consistently and intensely than what I was doing before.  I also notice my exertion during exercise is decreasing in correspondence with my RHR so I can do more, move faster in less time and thus burn the same amount of calories as before in less time without running faster than I have strength.  In the fitness world, this is called perceived exertion.  It’s a great metaphor for how each of us have our own Threshold of sacrifice.  Two people can be walking at the same exact pace but one of them might be working much harder, according to their perceived exertion, than the other.  The factors that affect that difference in perception can be both physical and spiritual.  So the goal is to work within our personal Threshold of perceived exertion.  When we do that, we become stronger, faster, and able to bear a heavier sacrifice over time.

Sacrifice:  Objective Value
What makes the marathon runner’s sacrifice greater than mine is the time he took to train verses the time I took to train, given we are both healthy individuals with the capacity to develop our cardiorespiratory systems and musculature to that level, without any genetic obstacles.  If we both have the capacity and Desire to become marathon runners, and I have trained myself to be able to run a 5K, while he has trained himself to be able to run a marathon, it objectively would take a longer time to develop his body than it would mine.  He would have been required to remain steadfast in his goal for a longer period of time than I would have.  No giving up.  So steadfastness in obeying his Trainer would have been one of his main qualities.

Jehovah --
"The covenant or proper name of the God of Israel. It denotes the 'Unchangeable One,' 'the eternal I AM'"  ~Bible Dictionary

"I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." ~Isaiah 50:6-7

Spiritual Fitness
Just as there are physical 5Ks and marathons, there are spiritual 5Ks and marathons.  A large portion of our society loves to get us to use Pride/Envy evaluations of our physical and spiritual fitness.  They advocate comparing our fitness to another to assess personal value in Pride or Envy, not so we can use it to bless the lives of others.  But that gets us no where.  In Christ’s world of Confidence/Humility, there are no Pride/Envy class distinctions.  If we want to develop our spiritual fitness level, we can.  It all is dependent upon our DESIRE TO LOVE.  Some people want to develop the capacity to run a spiritual 5K.  They love at that level and are satisfied there.  Others want to run spiritual marathons.  That’s where they find their greatest balance. Those who want to run marathons have no business judging those who just want to run 5Ks.  In fact, it is the 5K-ers who make up their spiritual marathon.  They are what make their spiritual sacrifice more difficult.  Spiritual marathon runners use their strength to love spiritual 5Kers or spiritual 1Kers in Confidence and Empathy and NOT Pride.  Those who run 5Ks have no business judging those who want to run marathons.  It is the marathoners who make it possible for them to run the distance/time of their choice.  They use their Humility and Gratitude and NOT Envy to receive the help they need to accomplish their goals and resolve their conflicts from marathon runners. 

It’s so symbiotic because we both need each other.  Neither of us would be able to experience Joy at the intensity level we desire if it weren’t for the other.  Peace isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Too much of it leaves us in boredom, stagnancy, and depression.  Ask anyone who has recently retired.  Sacrificing our peace for others completes that peace and enables us to feel that amazing flow of energy that is Joy.

Too Much/Too Little
We not only have a Threshold for how hard we can work before it is too much, but we also have a Threshold for how easy we can work before it is too little.  We all have to do something in order to obtain what we want and separate ourselves from the things we don't want. We can’t choose to run/walk at a rate that is beneath our capacity. We need to sacrifice to a certain degree in order to stay alive on this earth.  Atrophy is real and it sets in when we under-do it just as much as Injury sets in when we overdo it.  Likewise, we need to sacrifice above a certain Threshold in order to obtain and maintain Joy. 

It was Jesus Christ’s choice, mission, and inherent strength to develop the capacity to run the farthest distance/time for his personal sacrifice so that each of us could voluntarily sacrifice at the level we personally are able AND also develop our Threshold capacity according to our Desires.  He made it so the sacrifice could remain VOLUNTARY, instead of forced.  That is the power of Attraction!  Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he enables us to retain our agency, love, and Joy through whatever adversity we are required to bear.

"And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works." ~3 Nephi 27:15

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." ~John 12:32