What does it take to change yourself? How can you readjust your thinking and find direction of your life? These are the real questions behind the general discontent expressed by several people I have been talking to recently. The fact is you do not have to be confronted with a crisis to have these doubts, we all go through times when we wonder if this is ‘all there is’. While pondering this I was reminded of an ancient rabbinic story…
There once was a man who apparently had everything, but was tired of life, lacking both direction and purpose. He felt that there was nothing he could do about it, and spent his life whinging and complaining about everything.
One night he had a dream in which an angel told him that just two days journey away there was a magical city where he would find that everything was different, his frustration would be replaced with new purpose and direction which would lead him to a full and rewarding life.
Next morning he packed a few essentials and left his ancestral village, telling his wife and family that he was going on a journey to find himself, thinking that he was never coming back, but not prepared to admit it to them!
It was a long journey, going further than he had ever gone before, with the track getting rougher and narrower every hour, till as the sun went down he was in the midst of a dark forest. As he ate a meagre meal and settled down to sleep he was troubled because he was afraid that when he woke in the morning he may be disorientated and not know the direction he had come and what direction he had to go to find the magical city. So he very carefully removed his shoes and pointed them towards the magical city.
While he slept the angel came and moved his shoes so that they pointed back the way he had come! At first light he wakes with great excitement – today he will reach his magical destination! He is eager to get going, so he carefully steps into his shoes and continues his journey. As he walks he is amazed to find that the further he goes the more familiar things become. He arrives at the magical city, which though not as big and mighty as he had imagined, was much more welcoming than he expected. The people here are much more friendly, more considerate and courteous, though they did in some ways resemble those of his old village. He also finds that there is a street and a house and a family just like the one he left, and although they seem to know him, the wife and the children and the neighbours are different because they love him, accept him, and want him to be part of their lives. He never wanted to return to that other village…
What changed? His attitude and what he expected! You too can change, though sometimes it will take a miracle or an angel to help. God wants to help us and give us direction, but maybe it is our own attitudes and prejudices that stop us seeing it!
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Chaplain Ian S Whitley