Hi to all, especially to the young people who read my blog, and I am truly flattered that many of you do so and find it helpful.
I was going to write about Jesus Christ, an activity which gives me pure delight, but first I thought of a really helpful analogy regarding the important topic of understanding God, and also telling the difference between reality and imagination, freedom of choice and manipulation or fatalism. So here's the analogy and you'll understand my overall point as we develop each scenario.
Suppose that there is an athlete, a man or a woman, about to compete in a race, either on foot in track and field, or in swimming. This person would be running or swimming against let's say five or six other competitors.
The person is confident but has some anxiety regarding the outcome of the race, and so seeks some extraordinary assistance.
In scenario one he or she visits their priest or pastor, wondering if he or she can get some divine intervention or, at the very least, if the priest can tell if God's "on his or her side" in this race. The priest or pastor (if he is reputable and good with God, of course) explains that there is no way that he can determine this on the petitioner's behalf, but to assure him or her that God loves him or her no matter what, and wants what is best for him or her. The person may be a bit disappointed, especially when the priest or pastor goes on to talk about the importance of not sinning, and of living a good life. "*Sheesh* the person thinks, what has that got to do with this race? I'm not a bad person."
In scenario two he or she decides to visit someone he or she has heard is "psychic." You probably think that I'm going to bash psychics here, but I am not. I want you to assume that the person is a genuinely intuitive person who has very accurate hunches, some of them based on ESP, so they are "legitimate." The person ponders the question and tells the questioner that he or she is certain that the competitor will complete the race successfully, but in second place. The competitor is disappointed that he or she will not win in first place, but second place is definitely acceptible for this particular race. He or she leaves satisfied.
In scenario three he or she decides to visit Uncle Vinnie who is "connected." He or she wants to really be sure that he or she will either win or obtain second place. Uncle Vinnie promises to do what he can. He reports back that he was able to "convince" all of the other competitors to not run as hard as they would normally, except for one, and that is the one who holds the record for that race and is the greatest of the competitors anyways. So Uncle Vinnie figures that at least this person will get second place, since the honest guy or gal is going to run or swim hard and get probably first place, but all the other competitors will swim or run a tad slower, thus allowing the competitor to obtain second place.
In scenario four both the competitor has done ALL THREE scenarios at the same time! Ha, this is one paranoid person. He or she went to the priest, then went to the psychic, and THEN went to Uncle Vinnie. It is virtually certain that the person will at least achieve second place.
So..... the scene shifts to heaven, where God is watching the race along with several of the angels. One angel asks, "How is he or she going to do?" God sighs and says, "He or she would have had second place solid if only he or she hadn't messed up their own head with all this manipulation. Watch and see."
The race is run and the leader (the honest guy) has an off day, maybe he had too much Chinese food the night before and he doesn't run a great race, but our competitor doesn't notice, since he's already mentally programmed to expect the lead guy to run really great. So our competitor guy or gal is mentally programmed by his or her own actions to expect second place, so he or she doesn't notice that the leader is not pushing the pace as he would have normally!
The others in the field had promised not to run as hard as normal (to Uncle Vinnie) but they can't grind to a halt and look obvious, so even their slowed down pace is enough for some of them to pass the presumed leader! Again, our competitor doesn't notice that the Uncle Vinnie members HAVE to run at least a sincere looking race or their cheating would be obvious. So one of these guys actually ends up in the lead, while the presumed leader sinks to second place. THEN one of the other Uncle Vinnie guys gets tempted, going "Oh, wow, I promised to run or swim slow when I thought I didn't have a chance against the leader, but now I see he is sick and off the pace for that or some other reason, and I can actually contend for the lead!" So THIS guy now starts really racing against the other Uncle Vinnie guy who has to run better than he expected to do since he doesn't want to look like he's throwing the race. So two Uncle Vinnie guys start really vying for the lead, while presumed lead guy battles for third place. Our competitor dork, who had assumed the race would go a certain way, is just too slow to pick up the cues of how the race dynamics shifted until it is too late.
First place: Uncle Vinnie guy who realized halfway through the race that the presumed leader is in trouble and he could actually win by pouring it on all out the second half.
Second place: Uncle Vinnie guy who was worried that if he ran too slow he'd look like he was cheating (throwing the race) so when presumed lead guy faded he had to pick up his pace to not look like he was cheating.
Third place: Presumed lead guy who even though he ate too much Chinese food the night before is a real competitor and manages to pull out a respectable finish in third.
Fourth place: Our stupid competitor who tried to manipulate a finish that he or she would have had if only he didn't mess with everyone's heads, most especially his own, instead of running a natural race!
Now, here's what you need to understand. God didn't lift a finger one way or the other, but of course he knows ALL that not only does happen but "could have" happened, if humans made different choices. So God can attest to the angels that this competitor would have come in second place naturally, but because he or she tried to manipulate the outcome, they changed the competitive strategies and dynamics in his or her own head AND the rest of the field, and was competitively unprepared to respond to the changed dynamics of the race.
Suppose a thousand years ago God was chatting with some human working in the potato fields. In the course of chatting, God could say, "How does my all knowing work? Well, for example, I know that some person will run a race a thousand years from now, and would have, based on his or her skills and the circumstances of the race, etc. come in second place, but I know, since I am all knowing, that this guy or gal won't just let the race develop, and will consult psychics, "connected" acquaintances, etc before the race, and as a result, he or she will not run the alert race he or she would have run. Thus this person will end up in fourth place because the presumed lead guy will have some cramps because he ate too much Chinese food." God could then go on to describe how many atoms of gas cause the cramps and how long each atom was in existence, and where they are going next, until the end of time, etc and so forth!
Moral: The more artificial and manipulative people are in their life, in both the large things and the day to day matters, the less they are able to achieve good, or seize genuine opportunity, because they have programmed their own minds to one and only one scenario, and are no longer alert to the changing dynamics of reality around them.
God does not change the outcome: God knows the outcome.
People change their own outcomes, for the worse, in two ways, illustrated here. One is that they bum themselves out by assuming certain things that are not true are true, and that false assumptions are true or, even more subtly, real assumptions stay real forever, which they do not. For example, he or she assumed the Uncle Vinnie guys would throw the race, without having it occur to him or her that changing circumstances (the lead racer being off pace) changes even "commitments" that were made. One guy had to run faster so it would not be obvious that he was throwing the race, while the other guy ran faster once he realized that beyond his hopes he could actually come in first and beat the presumed leader. So even "commitments" change due to circumstances changing, I mean, um, duh, that's reality. If you are driving your car to a location and a tree has fallen and blocked the road, you take another path, you don't drive your car into the tree since "that's your plan." Duh!
The second problem is that people who are overly manipulative narrow their opportunities for better results because they simply are not alert and watching for the unexpected goodness anyway! This guy or gal, by manipulating, never thought of the possibility that the leader might have stomach cramps and not run a great race. He or she was too busy thinking of their second place "guarantee." So he or she is slow to notice during the race that 1) the lead guy is off 2) one of the Vinnie guys has to run faster or he will be identified as throwing the race and 3) another Vinnie guy recognizes that he can win a race he did not expect to win because the lead guy is off. By the time our competitor guy or gal opens their eyes and actually LOOKs at what is really and ACTUALLY happening, they've messed up their own opportunity.
I hope that you have found this thought provoking and helpful! Remember, the more you try to ensure certain things, the more you risk missing the "out of the box" opportunities (including those that do, on occasion, are answers to prayers), since you just are not watching for them with an open and sincere mind.
God explains to the angels, "Sure, the guy or gal would have come in second, that ESP person was right. But that second place finish would have been to not the presumed leader, but to one of the slower guys who had his chance to pull forward and run the race of a lifetime because the leader was off. Because our competitor guy or gal made assumptions that were cast in concrete, in their own mind (lead guy will win, others will throw the race), our competitor guy or gal missed their own chance, running a too slow race, since they assumed they are just running the script. The second place finish relied on the guy or gal running an awesome race from start to finish!"