The actor Jim Carrey is famous for Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and similar slapstick comedies. He is not so well known as a philosopher. That's what he became, however, when he recently told college graduates: "Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it."
"Ask the universe for it." Is that a new idea to you? It's actually been around a long time, with roots as old as Hinduism and as new as Rhonda Byrne's recent bestseller, The Secret. A "spirituality" writer says it well: there is a "Universal Intelligence that surrounds and penetrates you," that wants to "truly hear your request and thus assist you in manifesting it." When you "make your request out loud in a strong powerful affirming voice," you "relax into this divinity that is already here now" and "you realize that the benevolent Universe is already at 'one' with you."
Is this true? Where would Carrey and others get this idea?
In Genesis 3 we read that "the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made" (v. 1). The Bible calls him "that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). His strategy hasn't changed, because human nature hasn't changed.
Here's his lie: "you will be like God" (Gen. 3:5). If the forbidden fruit looks good, eat it. If you want something, ask for it. Be your own God and Lord. Every temptation is this temptation. Be your own God when you're tempted by greed, or gossip, or lust. Be your own God when you want what you know you shouldn't have. As The Secretsays, "you can have, be, or do anything you want."
What would Jesus say to that? "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). What would Paul say? "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
Does this mean that God wants us to be deprived and duty-driven? Leonard Sweet's new book, The Well-Played Life, gives the answer in its subtitle: "Why pleasing God doesn't have to be such hard work." I agree completely with his claim that God created us for joyful, passionate, even playful relationship with him and with each other.
So here's the paradox: When we stop trying to be our own God, we find what we wanted when we wanted to be God. When we lose our lives, we find them. When we die, we live. When we submit to God, we know the blessing of God, his "good, pleasing and perfect will" for our lives (Romans 12:2).
To find yourself, lose yourself. The less it's about you, the better it is for you.
Publication date: June 9, 2014