What's Oprah talking about now? The Secret-not just any secret, but the Big One, revealed by Rhonda Byrne, an Australian TV producer who apparently studied ancient texts in her spare time while masterminding such hits as "The World's Greatest Commercials." Byrne's mind-boggling discovery is that the universe is receptive to you. That's right, you: "the most powerful transmission tower in the world." All that's necessary to bend circumstances to your will and "manifest" your desires is sending out positive transmissions.
Most of us have to start small, like manifesting a penny on the sidewalk. But once you have the knack, there's no essential difference between a penny or a million bucks. Beware the flip side: Negative transmissions are the reason for all those things you don't want, such as war, acne, and liver cancer. "I wanted to share this gift with every person," says the author (at $23.99 for the book, $29.95 for the DVD), and to date well over 2 million copies have been "shared."
Anyone who's been around awhile will wonder what's so secret about an idea central to The Power of Positive Thinking, Word of Faith theology, and at least half the motivational speakers on the corporate-seminar circuit. The principle may even go back to some ancient papyrus-no wait, that's part of The Secret: It was actually discovered by the ancients but suppressed by the usual cabal of priests and bankers.
We may also wonder how anyone could fall for this stuff. But they do-we do: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Theologically it's a more-grounded question than, "Who sent out those negative vibes?" But the underlying prompt is the same: How the universe responds is up to me. Biblically, though, it matters more how I respond to the universe: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
This winter, my part of the country was slammed by the worst ice storm in its history. It came in three "waves," saving the worst for last: heavy rain, temperatures well below freezing, gusty north winds. Ice layered inches deep on the ground, clung in thickening layers to every exposed surface. Folks here will remember for years to come how it sounded: branches, poles, entire trees falling with a curious lack of echo, sharp and immediate as artillery fire. Like a whacked web, the power grid went down, the lights went out, the computer monitors fizzled. Let him who boasts, boast not in his power . . .
The following Sunday, wrapped in blankets and following the text with auxiliary light, our church heard a sermon on Job 37:10-13. "By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. . . . Whether for correction or for His land, or for love, He causes it to happen." It could even be all three at once-correction, judgment, love. For whatever reason, the works of God were displayed: We spoke of them with awe. Some readers perhaps read The Secret by candlelight during those long TV-less nights, trying to manifest their electricity back on, but others lost themselves in other-worldly silence.
C.S. Lewis wrote that his great Oxford friend A.K.H. Jenkins "seemed to be able to enjoy everything; even ugliness. I learned from him that we should attempt a total surrender to whatever was offering itself at the moment." Lewis wasn't a Christian at the time, and any surrender he attempted was for its own sake. But it was a step in the right direction. In an arm-wrestling contest with nature, our knuckles slam the table from the word go. This isn't Camelot, where ideal weather is established by decree.
This is my Father's world. The weather, my health, and all earthly circumstances are arranged to praise Him rather than please me. But to throw myself in His everlasting arms and willingly (if not always cheerfully) give myself to whatever He does, is the ultimate pleasure. And it makes worldly, recycled "secrets" look crabbed and timid. In the end there is only one way to play this game, and that is with abandon.