Friday, February 27, 2009

Blessings of Tithing (Not), Part 2

On January 30 I walked into work with a huge smile on my face and I felt like I was entering a period of great prospects. This was incongruous because it was the last day of my contract and my company had no prospects for new contracts. I had friends and co-workers who had already been unemployed for over 4 months and had done thorough nationwide searches trying to drum up new contracts with absolutely no results. Over the last year the contracting job market had completely dried up.

I had resolved to live off my savings for as long as possible and I was looking forward to some time off after working a tremendous amount over the previous year and a half. I also had some ideas for starting my own business that I wanted time to think about and work on. I also had things to do around the house that had been neglected for too long.

One of the things I wanted to do was go on a cruise with my wife. Not knowing my job future made me delay until the last moment but I booked a cruise at the last moment over the internet. My wife and I hurriedly packed and drove down to Galveston on February 8. We got caught in a huge traffic logjam just south of Houston and barely made it to the dock in time to board. I dropped my wife and our luggage at the dock and parked the car. We then got into the line to check in and got out driver's licenses out. We got up to the TSA people and they asked for our birth certificates or passport. I had hurriedly read the travel documents web page the night before which said that passports weren't required so I panicked a bit. I thought you only needed a driver's license. No problem, we'd brought our passports along even though we thought they weren't needed so we ran back out to our luggage.

After 30 minutes later of going through every piece of luggage we couldn't find any sign of my passport. Feeling like the stupidest person on the planet I made one last attempt to beg my way onto the ship only to be denied. I went back to the car, searched it for my passport, and went and picked up my wife and luggage for the long drive back to Austin.

Before leaving I called Royal Caribbean and they graciously agreed to transfer my non-refundable payment to a future cruise. The only problem was that this was the only week that really worked for us that was also affordable. After a little discussion we decided the only week that would really work was the week of spring break. This also meant that all of the kids would be free. So I made a command decision to book a cruise not just for the wife and I, but also for all 4 kids. Royal Caribbean helped us get it all set up the next day and we are now looking forward to a dream vacation.

By the way, in our haste to leave, my small backpack that I was going to carry on got left at the house. Inside were my cameras, some computer cables, and ... (drum roll please) ... my passport.

That next week I enjoyed my time off and didn't do much. On Friday I got an update from Linked In and I decided on the spur of the moment to ping a couple people in my network to see if they knew of any jobs. Within the hour they had responsed and I'd sent out a couple of updated resumes. The following Monday I got a call from a hiring manager and on Tuesday I had a phone interview with him and on the next day did a phone interview with a senior fellow of the company. The next Tuesday I had an on campus interview and two days later had an offer which I accepted two days ago and I start a great new job on 3/9.

If I was still an active member of the church this string of events would make a great faith promoting story to tell during testimony meeting. What initially looks like a calamity (missing the cruise and losing a lot of non-refundable money) results in my getting a great job and being able to take a cruise with the whole family while on paid vacation instead of while hoping to find a job.

Are these the blessing of heaven despite my unworthiness or because of my wife's worthiness or is it just life? My personal opinion is that there wasn't any divine intervention. Everything that happened was a direct result of my own stupidity and my own initiative in doing what I could do. I'm happy that Royal Caribbean felt it was good business to allow me to rebook the cruise at a later date even though they had no contractual obligation to do so. But, their decision was rewarded with more business from me that they wouldn't have otherwise gotten. I'm glad that I was in Austin to send out those feelers instead of on a cruise ship. But in the end, I don't know if it would have made any difference if I'd sent those resumes out a few days or a week later. I have a very good resume with unique skills and the company really wanted to hire me and found a spot for me despite challenging ecomonic times.

I'm blessed and I'm happy. But I wouldn't feel any differently if those things hadn't happened. The flip side is I also don't feel cursed or tried when things aren't going well. I feel like my personal life philosopy allows me to ride the ups and downs of life with relative equanimity.


Mountain Meadow Ghost said...

I take it you no longer "know" that every blessing and increase you receive, is because of paying tithing? And every expense and obstacle is caused by not paying tithing? I feel so much better today using my money to help those in need. Like friends with no health insurance to pay for expensive specialist and procedures they can not afford. And Support other worthy causes. I have never felt better and more blessed, since I got to make a difference in the lives of those I care most about. 700 dollars every month used for something better than billion dollar shopping malls in SLC.

Bull said...

I never knew this or bought into this and this is a perfect example why. My parents always use examples like this to illustrate the blessings of tithing when in reality stuff like this happens all the time regardless of tithing. In reality, it's the result of lots of other things that don't require any supernatural explanation.

Anonymous said...

Look, no offense to your parents, but anyone who explained to you that the belssings of tithing are financial was wrong. Is that something that many TBM's misunderstand? You bet. I've heard the same testimonies you describe about tithing resulting in financial success. But that ignores all the good folk in Ghana or Cambodia that pay their tithing and still manage to be broke, unemployed etc.

For me, the blessings of tithing are different. I find that by paying tithing, I have to live below the means of coworkers making the same amount. As a result I feel a bit more humble about my place in the world (not a bad thing). I also feel more likely to help those in need and I find I do so more frequently than before I was a TBM. By paying tithing I make a statement that my money isn't mine. It belongs to someone else (you're thinking, 'yeah, you're wife').

Look, paying tithing expecting to be rewarded with a big house and fat job is the hight of ignorance of LDS beliefs. It sounds like you never suffered from such dilusions. But I don't think it's be so hard to see that there can be real benefits from treating our funds with the respect they deserve (since they belong to God) and livng on them with more humility.

My wife and I get in a similar debate qute a bit. And she has persuaded me somewhat. To wit: what is the harm is assuming that all good things come from God? I usually say that there is no harm in assuming that. The harm comes in assuming God belssed YOU because of something YOU did. I'm sure she and I will have this debate again.

As another point, I work on and off in personal finance. You wouldn't believe how many non-TBM financial experts will tout the benefits of tithing. They don't call it that but folks from Suze Orman to robert Kiyosaki to others have pointed out that giving to others helps us out money in its proper perspective on our lives.

Bull said...

I think that the only thing we might disagree on is whether or not your beliefs regarding tithing are Mormon. The church, when convenient, has clearly taught or implied that paying tithing produces tangible, temporal rewards. That's why so many Mormons believe it. The fact that you don't just shows that you are reasonable enough to reject doctrine that is clearly wrong.