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Ten Secrets for the Man in the MirrorStartling Ideas About True Happiness
By Patrick Morley
ZondervanCopyright © 2001 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAn Idea That Takes Ten or Twenty Years to Sink In
Once upon a time there lived a master who owned a great estate. One day he learned that a scruffy mongrel dog at the local animal shelter had been scheduled for destruction. Gripped by compassion, the master had his servants bring the mangy animal into his home and clean it up.
As you can imagine, the mutt was suddenly most happy. The master called his new dog into the study where he was going over a few affairs pertaining to his great estate, though the dog knew little of what the master owned or did. With his large, strong hand the master reached down to pet and comfort his new companion and friend.
The dog was a mixed breed, but he was intelligent. Though not fully understanding the benevolent act of his new master, Petros (for that was now his name) was overwhelmed with gratitude. He returned the master's kindness by licking his hand. This made the master feel warm and loving toward his new possession. "I love you very much," he said," and everything I have here is for your enjoyment. The yard where you can run and play is large. I will make sure you are always well fed, and you can come and sit by my side any time you want. I will protect you and watch over you from now on." These promises made Petros swell with joy.
"I do have a few rules, though," added the master, "which you should obey. First, I have other dogs I have brought home over the years, and you must love them like I do and not quarrel with them. There's plenty of food for all of you-and more than enough land to share.
"Second, I will from time to time ask you to welcome other dogs I bring home and teach them the things you learn about what it means to belong to me. Also, everybody here has work to do, so you will need to do your fair share. That's about it, really, but I want to say again that I would love to spend as much time with you as I can. Oh, by the way, stay inside the fence I've built. It's for your own protection. Beyond the fence are many dangers to dogs, and I want to spare you from any more hardships than you've already experienced."
With this, the happy dog trotted out into the sunny yard and took a deep breath, thankful to his new master for his mercy toward such a dog. He could not believe his good fortune. He thought to himself, You know, I had heard about this place and wondered, Wouldn't it be nice if it were true? But I didn't believe it really existed.
Over the next several months Petros began to get to know the other dogs the master had collected. It was a motley, unseemly lot. He couldn't seem to find any pattern at all to how his master chose his dogs. They were of many colors, big and little, pedigreed and mutt, male and female. They were from all walks of life, actually. The only common denominator he could find was the master who had taken them in and loved them.
Many of the more experienced dogs taught Petros about the ways of his master. But he was surprised to learn that a number of the other dogs no longer appreciated all the master had done to save them. In fact, some actually grumbled and complained that the yard wasn't big enough and that the food was always the same. It was widely discussed among these disgruntled dogs that life outside the boundaries of the master's estate was far more exciting. Each year a number of dogs would actually dig under the fence and run away.
The runaway dogs were rarely heard from again, but the general consensus among the remaining dogs was that the runaways were better off. Actually, nothing could have been further from the truth. Life on the outside was cruel. Most of the dogs ran in packs, so it was dangerous to be outside the fence on your own. The provisions of the forest couldn't match those of the master's kitchen, and the packs of dogs often fought with each other for territory and for access to the limited resources of the forest.
Perhaps the only reason the forest dogs could survive at all was because piles of food, mostly scraps, mysteriously appeared from time to time. Unbeknownst to the forest dogs, the master of the estate regularly had his servants take scraps from his table and, under cloak of darkness, put them out for the runaways.
The more the new dog talked with the malcontented dogs about what they didn't like, the more he questioned the motives of his master. The more he questioned, the less time he spent licking the master's hand and feeling the warmth of the master's hand stroking his coat of hair. Whenever he did go to see the master, though, the owner of the estate was consistently delighted to see him and always asked how he was doing. The master would stop whatever he was doing to focus on the dog. Yet, over a period of time Petros's mind fantasized about the adventures that must lie on the other side of the fence. Curiosity gave way to desire; desire became longing; longing became lust.
Over time the dog's lust for the forest grew and grew until one day it finally outweighed his desire for the master's care. He had heard a rumor that several other discontented dogs planned to tunnel under the fence and run away. After some hesitation, he decided to join the rebellion, and that night he scampered through the hole to what he thought would be glorious freedom from the master's unbending rules.
Once all the dogs had made their way through the hole, they couldn't agree on who would be their leader, so they all separated and went in their own directions. Petros was shocked at how quickly the group fell apart. He found a place under the stars to spend the night, but he couldn't help missing the warm blanket by the master's hearth where he had always slept before.
Early the next morning he awakened, glad he no longer had to obey the master, happy he was now his own master.
Most of the forest had been carved up into territories by the other dogs, and Petros figured he would have to cast his lot with one pack or another if he was going to become the dog he'd always dreamed of becoming.
He traveled about the forest, meeting different types of dog packs. Some seemed bent on taking advantage of the other packs and plotted what seemed to him to be evil schemes. He wanted nothing to do with that. Others were noticeably industrious and were building estates of their own. It appeared they were trying to imitate the estate of the master. Packs competed with each other to see who could create the most beautiful estate in the forest, though their successes were limited. One pack eyed another, and envy appeared to be the chief motivation of all they did.
A few of the dog packs picked leaders who seemed determined to imitate the master of the estate. They encouraged the dogs in their packs to lick their paws and pay them tribute, just the way they used to do for the master.
Whether the dogs were in an evil pack, an envious pack, or a religious pack, Petros noticed that the longer the dogs had been away from the master's estate the more sickly they appeared to be. It was as though, regardless of their material success in the forest, their souls hungered for something they could only get on the grounds of the estate. At first, Petros couldn't put his paw on exactly what it was.
Suddenly one day it dawned on him. He remembered the happy feelings of love, peace, and joy that used to come over him when he licked his master's hand. He had found such pleasure in paying tribute to the master for his kindness. He deeply enjoyed the happiness he had felt when the master stroked him. All at once, he realized how much the touch of the master's hand had meant to him and to all these other runaway dogs.
Soon he too began to lose weight, and he began to remember again those lonely days before he had ever known the master.
When Petros didn't return after several days, the master was heartbroken that he had run away. Each day at sunrise the master would walk to the gate of his estate and look in the direction of the forest. He would call the name he had given his dog, hoping he might appear and come home.
So heartbroken was the master that he soon organized a search party of his servants to look through the forest. One day, the servants found Petros and tried to coax him from the tiny cave where he was living. All day long they tried to persuade the dog that the master deeply loved him and wanted him to come home. But Petros, even though lonely and hungry, couldn't bring himself to admit he had made a mistake. He had believed the lies about the master the other runaway dogs had spread around. He still mistakenly thought the master's rules stifled his freedom, and so by nightfall the servants gave up and returned to the master with their dreary report.
It was on that day that a great tug of war began within the dog. On the one paw, the forest was a great hub of activity. Petros was enamored with the world of the forest. Here it was, he thought, that he could become the dog he had always wanted to be. Yet, on the other paw, he saw how disillusioned and emaciated the souls of the forest dogs were, who, ironically, couldn't seem to see what was wrong with them. In fact, some of the most reckless dogs acted like they were the ones who most had it together.
Petros began to see that in order for a dog to be happy, he needed more than merely allowing the master to save him. He needed to come under the long-term care and protection of the master. The forest was a mean and hard place because it deceived a dog into thinking he needed to get his own way to be happy.
The great tug of war continued for some years to come. Occasionally a search party of servants would find Petros and ask if he was ready to come home, but he always resisted.
What the dog couldn't know, however, was that the master's estate included not only the property inside the fence, but he owned the forest as well. Ironically, all the runaway dogs were nothing more than squatters on the master's land. Yet, the master was gracious, and even though they had rejected him, he continued to provide for their care, albeit in a much more limited way, by letting them use the forest they thought was theirs. They simply didn't understand that he owned everything as far as the eye could see. He was the lord of all.
Ideas That Take Ten or Twenty Years to Sink In
In life we learn many lessons in brilliant flashes of insight. Other lessons, though, seep in over the course of many years.
For example, from the first moment the thought broke into my mind that "prayer is the most important thing I can do," it took another twenty years to expel the thought that "there are better ways to go about getting things done." And like a nearly empty tube of toothpaste, you can never quite squeeze out the old thought completely.
In a similar way, I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of the idea "I can rely on God" as it scampered through my mind. Even though I came to believe it unyieldingly, it took another twenty years to back the old thought "I can do it on my own" into a corner and pin his arms so he couldn't take a swing at me. Still today I can see that smirking "old man" standing over there in the corner, calling out to me, asking for just one more chance to prove he's right.
There is another idea that has only recently been sinking in for me and grabbing me at the core of my being. Personally, I believe it's one of the greatest lessons I've ever learned. I believe it is the golden secret to success. I believe it is "the first and the last word" on happiness. It is the essence of what it means to declare Jesus Christ as Lord. This idea may resonate with you as soon as you hear it, or you may recoil from it at first. You may even disagree with it. Yet, I believe it is the one idea in this book that can most change your life and my life. So, you may want to read it carefully ...
Let's unpack this idea a little bit. The world would say, "Want to be happy? Seek a better job. Live in this neighborhood. Take this vacation. Drive this car. Send your children to this school. Accumulate this much money. Join this club." God says, "Want to be happy? Surrender your life to me. Obey me. Seek the truth. Live by faith. Give yourself away in service. Deny yourself."
Jesus does reward, but as early-twentieth-century writer Bruce Barton observed, Jesus used the higher style of leadership that brings forth a man's greatest effort not by the picture of great rewards but by the promise of obstacles. Author Dallas Willard notes in The Divine Conspiracy that Jesus "links " the broad road of abundance to the narrow road of obedience.
Ironically, when we yield our lives to Jesus, bring ourselves under his authority, allow him to be Lord (which he is regardless), and walk in his way of obedience, service, and self-denial-things that sound like giving up happiness-he rewards us with every spiritual blessing. He links the broad road of abundance to the narrow road of obedience.
Recently I found myself writing these words in my journal: "God, it is in your plan, purpose, and will that I find these pleasant things. Your will is agreeable with me. Ours is not a contest to get around, manipulate, or overcome your will, but to enter in. It is not a roadblock, but a gate."
Happiness and Truth
Happiness is linked to truth. Some things are true, whether we choose to believe them or not. Suppose for a moment you had a headache. Let's say someone gave you a pill that contained rat poison but told you it was an aspirin. Let's also say that you sincerely believed them. If you take the pill will you be happy? Dead, maybe, but definitely not happy. That's because the truth is what it is. You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.
The Christian life is not built on feelings or impressions that shift from one generation to the next. Rather, it is based on the historical life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the faith life revealed in the Bible. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). To be happy we must be seekers of truth. The Bible says, "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23). Incidentally, the word worship has at the core of its meaning "to kiss, the way a dog licks its master's hand." It is on the narrow road of truth and worship that we find the broad road of happiness.
Joy and Obedience
Jesus links joy to obedience. Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:10-11).
Also, blessing is linked to obedience. "As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, 'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.'
Excerpted from Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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