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THERE IS MORE TO THE SECRET
By Ed Gungor
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Ed Gungor
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGods and Genies
OK. Before I get started, I have a confession to make. I'm an apprentice of Jesus Christ, and though I am a fan of Rhonda Byrne and her team's treatment of the law of attraction, I am a critical fan. I am very excited about what Byrne has communicated in the 2006 best-selling self-help book The Secret, and the film documentary of the same name. But at the same time, I do not start or end in the same philosophical place that the book does. For example, I do not believe that human beings are evolving into gods; we will always need God. Neither do I believe that humankind can self-save; we need a Savior. I believe that Jesus Christ knew this so-called secret, but he still had to die-the concept alone will not save us. Further, I feel that Byrne and company left too much room for material greed, social apathy, and the blaming of victims for the horrific events that occur in their lives. (I'm not suggesting that was their intention, but it is still a problem.) This does not mean, however, that I don't think the book has many good things to say-it does. In fact, I want to spend the bulk of this writing expanding on the treasure that it explores. We'll talk about the problemsas we go along.
What Is It?
We only have one shot at life. Consequently, I think we should write our lives large-we should decide to matter. This idea helps us do that. It touches every aspect of our lives-from our finances to our health to our relationships. When understood, it unearths the hidden, untapped power within each of us-pagan or saint.
This is not some complex, hard-to-grasp idea. It is simply the law of attraction. This law, plainly stated, is: Everything coming into your life is the result of what you have been attracting to your life. Your life is not the way it is by accident; it is the product of cause and effect. In a sense, how you live your life is a magnet, which draws the events that occur into your life-both good and bad.
Though this may sound scary at first (everything is my fault?), what a great discovery it is! This means that you and I have a lot to say about how happy our lives can be. When we learn how the law of attraction works, we can "work it" to keep the good things we enjoy coming into our lives while refusing access to the bad things.
But is that really possible?
There are many who believe that whatever is destined to be, will be. They think that humans have nothing to do with the future; that is God's sphere. Things only happen, these folks contend, because of God's sovereignty, and human beings don't really cause anything to happen that God wouldn't have done anyway. This group would argue that our thoughts, beliefs, and actions are more of an aside, because God will do what God will do, irrespective of what humans do.
But if God had really wanted to create a world where humans couldn't control things, then why did he create a world filled with laws-laws so specific and predictable that we can send a person to the moon and predict within a fraction of a second when he or she will land there? What if God created laws precisely so that we humans could have more control over our lives? The great apostle Paul claimed, "All things are yours, whether ... the world or life or death or the present or the future-all are yours." In another place he wrote, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."
These texts assert that the way we participate in the world God created is much the same way a farmer participates with the laws of nature. A farmer who wants the earth to yield a corn crop must learn to cooperate with nature to get it. Nature does not select the kind of harvest-it waits for the farmer to decide. The farmer makes that choice. He predicts the field's future by the kind of seed that is sown there. To "attract" corn, the farmer simply plants corn seed. This is the way the law of attraction works.
Creation works the same way for you and me. God doesn't determine on his own how wonderful our lives are. To some degree, we control the level of success that we enjoy in our marriages, finances, careers, parenting, etc., based on whether or not we cooperate with the laws God placed here. We can have happiness or heartache, on purpose. We can attract whatever it is that we want to attract-the truth is, we are doing that now. Learning how this law works doesn't make it work-it works all the time-but learning how it works helps us to "work it" to our advantage instead of to our disadvantage.
Newton's third law of motion states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is another way to express the law of attraction. Jesus Christ showed us how the law of attraction, aka "the Secret," works in our relationships with others: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."
This means that if you smile at someone, he most likely will smile right back. If you are mean to a person, chances are, she will be mean to you. If you are genuine and kind to others, you are almost certain to have others express kindness in return. If you are critical of everything and everyone, you can expect a hefty dose of critical judgment from others in your life. You attract what you put out. The law of attraction is at work for everyone, everywhere, all the time, whether one understands it or not.
Believers in God often get mixed up on the balance between the things we are to do and the things God does. There is a story of a rancher out west who received a visit from his pastor. As the rancher showed the preacher around the property, with its well-maintained outbuildings, fences, and manicured lawns, the pastor declared rather piously, "My, how God has blessed this property!"
In a straightforward manner the rancher replied, "I guess ... but you should have seen it when he had it all by himself."
If we are not careful, those of us who are God-followers will be guilty of something Jesus Christ warned us about. In his parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-29), he urged people to work with the potential they had been given by God. But he said that some would be so oriented to the sovereignty of God that they would basically do nothing and resign themselves to fate. In other words, they'd join the Doris Day crowd, singing, "Que será será, whatever will be, will be ..." Jesus said that this bunch believed that God, like the master in his story, harvests what he has "not sown" and gathers where he has "not scattered seed." In other words, humans don't have to do jack-God does it all. Jesus said this group buried their potential "in the ground" (v. 25)-and God was not happy about it.
But there is danger on both sides of this issue.
Proponents of the latest usage of the law of attraction claim that it gives us everything we could ever desire-happiness, health, and wealth; that we can do or be anything we want; and that we can possess anything we choose-no matter how big. We are asked, "What kind of home do you want to live in?" or, "Do you want to be a millionaire?" We are told, "Miracles happen when you know how to apply the 'Secret.'" American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) once wrote, "The secret is the answer to all that has been, all that is, and all that will ever be." Quoting Emerson, advocates of the beliefs I just described claim that the great secret of life is this: each of us works with one infinite power-the law of attraction.
But they leave out a very critical piece. It turns out that there is more to the "Secret."
We Share the Power
When personal computers first appeared in the 1980s, installing new programs or peripherals (like printers or scanners) was more than a "plug-and-play" event. It wasn't unusual for your whole computer to stop working after adding a new program that was supposed to make life easier. Then you would have to spend hours on the phone with the software provider's "help desk" as a technician walked you through the arduous process of rewriting hidden program lines (such as CONFIG.SYS). It was a mess.
The reason there were so many problems is that software developers designed their software on PCs that contained no other programs. Hence, they could marshal all their PCs' resources for the execution of the programs they were developing. Not a bad thing to do-if all PCs ran only one program. But they don't. But that didn't stop the engineers from altering their computers' internal codes in order to most efficiently run their own programs. It was a dog-eat-dog, every-company-for-itself programming world. And as consumers began to load one new program after another onto their computers, applications began to conflict with one another, fighting for limited internal resources, and systems began to lock up. (I wish I had a dollar for every hour I have spent on the phone line with "Technical Support," clearing up "conflicts.") We've come a long way, baby.
As Byrne and her associates lay out the anatomy of The Secret, I can't help but feel that they are making a mistake similar to that of the early PC program developers. The repeated emphasis in their treatment of the idea is on each person's individual power and control while using the law of attraction. The problem is, there isn't just one person using that law-more than one program is running in the universe. We don't use the law of attraction in a vacuum-there are other players, other forces in motion.
For example, in the book the Byrne team claims that we attract everything that happens to us-even the bad things, like car accidents. While that may be true in some cases, it is an oversimplification of reality.
Consider the Holocaust. Is it really plausible that six million Jews all "attracted" this unimaginable horror into their lives, all on their own? Or were there other forces in play-such as unlimited power in the hands of an insane dictator named Hitler? And what about the abuse and murder of children? Did the victims "imagine" and "attract" those things to themselves? If not, then why did it happen to them? Did the law of attraction that "works for all people everywhere at all times" not work in their case, or are there other forces in motion-like a sick perpetrator?
And what about God? Supporters of today's practice of the law of attraction are almost silent about him. That's odd when you consider that most people believe in God. In their iteration of The Secret, Byrne's group seems to hold to the notion that if God created what is, then he is certainly no longer present in it-at least not in any relevant way. There is no "Big Plan." And if God does exist, then he (or she?) is apparently distant and unknowable-living well outside the affairs of the world, which do not or cannot touch him. They suggest that the universe is instead a kind of genie that exists purely to grant our every wish-our wish is Genie's command. And "Genie" is granting wishes at this very moment-good ones and bad ones. Understanding this idea, they say, is the key to getting the universe to grant you only the good wishes.
This Is God's Story
In the Christian tradition, there are no genies. Each person is a dream of God come true; a destiny; a planned and purposeful being that God placed in the world as a unique character in his unfolding story. Scripture claims that God "determined the times" in which we would be born and planned "the exact places" that we would live. The psalmist declared, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
This means that each one of us matters, and how we fit in this world works toward a telos-an "end"-of a goal-directed process concocted by God himself. For God-followers, this isn't a land for the "survival of the fittest"-it is a world for the predestined. But instead of looking for God's predestined plan, many think they are making up their own story. Contrary to what Byrne tells us, the secret tucked away in history involved human beings, not making up their own stories but finding their places in the story being told by someone else-God. The most ancient revealing of this fact viewed creation as full of God's purposeful ideas-there was a place for everything and everyone. The law of attraction wasn't used to attract just anything; it was used to attract the telos of God. It revealed that each of us is born into God's world and that it is his stage; we are but participants in his play. The psalmist said, "Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his."
My wife, Gail, and I recently went to a play featuring our beautiful daughter-in-law, Erin. She had one of the lead roles. After the show, we showered her with kudos and asked her how she felt the performance went. In response, she talked mainly about how she thought she did with her role. There was no complaining about the others onstage, no wishing that she'd had their lines, no attempt on her part to take over another's role, and no discussion of how she wished she could rewrite the script or direct the show differently. She measured her success by how well she performed the job assigned to her.
This is how we should hit the stage of life. This is central to the idea-and the very reason why God created the law of attraction. We should refuse to try to write, produce, direct, or choose the part we want to perform in our own play. We need to see God as the Writer, Producer, and Director. Our ambition should be to discover our individual, God-destined role and then perform that role large.
Somehow realizing that we are here to cooperate in something bigger than ourselves gives us a bridge to a transcendent life-access to an existence that is bigger than one of our own crafting, larger than the immediate desires of selfish people, with their ever-expanding needs. This "roots" us in something grander, something bigger, something eternal.
In a dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself world, where nothing is more important than number one, searching for God's telos is seen as irrelevant, because it is connected to something other than self. But this discovery gives a new self-worth based on an identity valued by God-it links our personal competency to fruitfulness for more than just ourselves. This doesn't deplete us as persons; it leads us to God. And our sense of identity is emboldened through union with Life larger than oneself.
This is how we participate in what is referred to as the kingdom of God. We anticipate that God will act; we expect God to act. We just don't know where or when. But we listen, and we continue to walk in the law of attraction as a gesture of our love and pursuit of God. A life committed to discovering a telos created by God gradually fills us with a spirit of expectation that all good things will be given to the obedient heart-we will eat "the fat of the land." Jesus says that it is when we are willing to lose our lives (in God's telos) that we find them.
Excerpted from THERE IS MORE TO THE SECRET by Ed Gungor Copyright © 2007 by Ed Gungor. Excerpted by permission.
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