Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Right to Be Mass Effective

Woohoo! I'm a PARTICIPANT!
Before we get to the post, let me first make the announcement that I wouldn’t expect to hear from me during the month of November. This is because I am one of the countless writers participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). Actually, it’s not countless. According to their website, there are currently 150,627 writers signed up to participate.

NaNo may not know it, but this little
beaut was one of its 2012 nemeses.
The goal for NaNo, as it’s called for extra short, is to write 50,000 words on a new novel. I haven’t participated in the past because I never wanted to put aside my current work to do it. Last year, I was in the middle of The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living and I couldn’t possibly have put that off! This year, I’m working on the nonfiction book on discipleship that I announced in the afterword of Savvy Demon’s Guide. I’m not thrilled to put that on the back burner either, and if I was going to take a break from it I’d probably want to work on book two in The Magi Chronicles, but that’s not eligible since it has to be a new book and I’ve been steadily working on that for a while.

Despite these minor reservations, I’ve decided to go ahead and give it a shot. If I can knock out fifty thousand words, that’ll be a great start to a new novel. So I’m going to use the challenge as an opportunity to try my hand at a new genre I’ve always wanted to attempt. If it doesn’t work, that’s fine, I’ll just go back to the discipleship book. But I intend to give it my best and see what happens. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.


This isn't precisely what she looks like...but it's kinda close!
Her name is Commander Haley Shepard, and she is a hero.

There can be no doubt about it. After all, if it weren’t for Shepard, the Battle of the Citadel in 2183 would have surely ended with Sovereign’s victory, which would have paved the way for a Reaper invasion that the galaxy wasn’t ready for. Not that there’s really any such thing as being ready for the Reapers, but Shepard bought the galaxy a great deal of time, in addition to bringing squabbling races together to face the threat with a united front.

Basically, without Shepard they don’t have a chance.

"So then one ethnically ambiguous human tells the other
ethnically ambiguous human with a slightly different
skin tone, 'Nope! Chuck Testa!'" "HAAA!"
Commander Shepard is the protagonist for the Mass Effect trilogy, one of my favorite game series of all time. In fact, I am still in the middle of a gaming marathon, playing all three games in a row, and I can’t think of any other series I’ve ever attempted this with. But I love Mass Effect. I love the writing, I love all the choices, I love the characters. I love that I can spend just as much time hanging out with my crew and getting to know them and even finding love as I do fighting bad guys. I love that, in Mass Effect 3, it’s possible to walk in on two of your crew members, a human and a turian (a reptilian type species) trading racist jokes. It just feels so genuine. Plus, humans and turians are different races. So it’s real racism!

I should probably point out that my Shepard isn’t the same Shepard that you might have played as. Mine is female, but according to game developer Bioware, 82% of all players choose to play as a male Commander Shepard. For all my playthroughs, I’ve never tried that. There are also a number of choices that have a sizeable impact on game events. Even this time round, I’m discovering new dialogue and even a new mission here and there that I missed before. You can be gracious and nice or ruthless and cold. Major supporting characters can live or die based on your choices. Seemingly inconsequential decisions in the first game can have major consequences in the third. I love this stuff!

War is tough, but we keep fighting for the asari we love.
And I love the story. Oh, sure, the whole “save the world” or “save the galaxy” thing isn’t the most original in the world. But the writers know what they’re doing. There are real stakes for the player because you get to care about your crew, and the odds are against you. If you make smart decisions and play well, you can save most of them...but, no matter what, you cannot save all. The reality presented in the game’s universe is that people die in war and that doing the right things sometimes requires sacrifice.

Sacrifice. Does the word conjure up positive feelings? It may not be the case for you, but when I think of the word sacrifice, what comes to mind first is the sacrifice of others. First and foremost, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Nothing comes close to His, and although this may be an unpopular thought, I don’t really appreciate bumper stickers or memes that do draw a comparison. He’s God. He’s in a class of His own. There are other sacrifices that keep us safe and even keep us comfortable sometime that certainly also deserve our gratitude.

Some degree of sacrifice is a part of life for many of us. Parenting requires a great deal of sacrifice. In my house, our decision to have one parent stay home fulltime to homeschool our girls means we have to sacrifice a more upscale lifestyle that would be possible if we both worked outside the home. Those who sacrifice tasty foods are a whole lot skinnier than I am. There are plenty of examples. When it comes to our faith, many of us sacrifice our time to participate in church activities. We sacrifice our money to give a portion to God, who blessed us with it in the first place.

"Well, the sermon sucked, Reverend,
but I'm still here to help God out."
And yet...there are those who have sacrificed much more.

I used to feel good about attending church every time the doors opened. I felt superior to those who only showed up on Sunday mornings. After all, I was sacrificing more of my time for God than they were. It wasn’t that I was necessarily experiencing a lot of growth due to these decisions, and certainly I wasn’t doing anyone else a lick of good through going to more church stuff. It’s almost like there was some sort of rationale in my brain that God somehow benefited from me attending stuff dedicated to Him. Like He should be grateful I was willing to give up so much time on His behalf. And that’s what I was doing: giving up time. I wasn’t telling people about Jesus, I wasn’t serving, I wasn’t making disciples. I was attending. Sacrificing my time.

If I seem a bit dismissive, it’s because...well, I am. I no longer believe in church activity just for activity’s sake. Oh, I certainly believe that there is value in corporate worship and in studying the Bible with each other, and most of the “each other” and “one another” commands in the Scripture can be fulfilled wonderfully in the context of a small group.

But, even going to Sunday school, Sunday worship service, small group, Wednesday night and whatever else, it’s still simply compartmentalization of one’s faith. It doesn’t matter how many hours you devote to church stuff, so long as there’s that line between God stuff and me stuff, we’re never going to be living our lives entirely to glorify God. It’s a problem that the notion of attending cannot rise above. It’s being a churchgoer instead of a follower of Jesus Christ.

The problem with compartmentalization, when it comes to our faith, is that it offers a significantly lesser commitment in exchange for what we were called to. It’s giving a little when we’re supposed to give all. Even as we grow in Christ and become more concerned with taking our faith seriously, we increase what we give but we still don’t give all. And it’s hard to give all, and I doubt any of us can do it perfectly all the time (we certainly can’t at all without the Holy Spirit empowering us!), but can we consistently and honestly say that it is our active goal?

In Savvy Demon’s Guide, one character challenges most of the others to memorize 1 Corinthians 9. It’s something I’ve been working on with my 9-year-old daughter as well. The chapter heading put in by the
Paul is also more than willing to set aside RiteAid if need be.
editors of the ESV call this chapter, “Paul Surrenders His Rights,” and that’s a pretty good title for what he says in it. It’s also a convicting concept for me. I find myself far too often clinging to my rights—as a human being, as an American citizen, and so on. And yet why does Paul willingly set his rights aside? “We endure anything,” he says, “rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:12).

We endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Christ comes first. The Gospel comes first. Everything else—everything—comes after. My rights, my comfort, my happiness, my family, my health, my job, my life—none of these have the priority that following Christ and building His kingdom has.

There comes a point in the first Mass Effect game where the player character, Commander Shepard, has to make the most difficult of choices. For their crucial mission to be a success, she needs to order one of her team to sacrifice him or herself so that they can complete their objectives and escape safely. There are two options. The character you send to their death will never be forgotten. The character you choose to save will continue to have a strong presence in the rest of the series. When things get tough, sometimes Shepard
remembers the teammate who gave their life for the cause. She needs to stay focused and do what it takes to win the war so that the character who died will not have made their sacrifice in vain.

Our inspiration, our motivation, our redemption.
Our everything.
This world is a spiritual battleground. Everyone is born on the road to hell, enemies of God, and at odds with the One who made them. Christ sacrificed His life to save those people. When He redeemed us, we were drafted into the fight. We can help ensure that His sacrifice was as worthwhile as possible by doing everything in our power—and letting the Holy Spirit work through us—to save as many as possible. That’s why Paul sacrificed all his rights for the sake of the Gospel. It’s why we’re called to do the same.

For my part, I owe Jesus Christ the sacrifice of my entire life. It is quite literally no less than He did for me.


  1. I think I'd come to your blog just for the captions on all your pictures...

    1. That made me reread them and the RiteAid one made me laugh out loud! Oh it's so bad! =D