Lessons from the Wasteland: Sell everything

Published October 15, 2012 by joypatton

“You have found a treasure: the treasure of God’s love.  You know now where it is, but you are not yet ready to own it fully.  So many attachments keep pulling you away.  If you would fully own your treasure, you must hide it in the field where you found it, go off happily to sell everything you own, and then come back and buy the field.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen – The Inner Voice of Love

When I read this, I realized that in the wasteland God was asking me to sell everything.  This feels so counter-intuitive to me.  When you find a treasure, you don’t hide it and then come back.  Don’t you want to show everyone?  But the truth is that this treasure is so precious, so personal, so profound, that when you find it, you hide it.  Not because you are ashamed, not because you are afraid, but because you are not yet ready to fully own it.

I don’t like not being ready.  I don’t like it when someone tells me I can’t have something.  It often spurs on my Ice Queen to take it by force.  I have talked to women who have what I’m chasing after.  It’s so maddening to me when they tell me that they don’t know how it happened.  That the opportunities just fell out of the sky and the doors magically opened.  This is not the answer I want to hear.  I want to hear how God called them to it and through diligence, hard work and perseverance, they obtained the prize.  This is how my flesh wants the story to go.

But that is my story, not God’s story.  God’s story takes me through the wasteland.  The land of nothing and no opportunities.  The dry and weary land of knowing the treasure is there, but not being ready to fully own it.  The pain of now and not yet.  In the wasteland, I’m tempted to believe that God has taken these things from me by force.  In a jealous rage, he has ripped away everything I have.  But this is not truth.

Rather he has invited me to sell everything.  This past year I thought I owned a position.  It was a position I thought I deserved, that I earned, that was rightfully mine.  In my wisdom, it was a logical next step for where God was taking me.  After all, it all made sense on paper.  To me, this position was exactly what I needed.  And yet, it was taken away.

I believed that God took it, that he forced me out.  But honestly, he gave me the perfect opportunity to sell it.  To let go of the attachments that have kept me from knowing Him.  I could have gone and asserted myself and demanded my proper position.  I could have gossiped and taken my complaint and my hurt other places.  I could have fought to hold on to my precious position.  And yet, God was asking me to sell it, to let it go.

There are other things I’ve had to let go of this year.  I had to let go of some friendships and my desire to be justified, right and loved by all.  I’ve had to let go of micromanaging my teenage son and learn to let him rise and fall on his own as a man.  All the publishing and speaking doors I knocked on were closed.  I had to let go of my self-effort to get to where I thought I was going.  I have “sold” these things so that I could have one thing, the pearl of great price.  The treasure more valuable than all other treasures: Jesus.

Henri Nouwen goes on to explain, “This is often a painful enterprise, because your sense of who you are is so intimately connected to all the things you own: success, friends, prestige, money, degrees, and so on.”  The wasteland is painful.  It looks and feels like everything is being taken away.  But the truth is that he is asking me to let go.  He is also giving me clear direction about what needs to be sold.  It is the painful process of dying to self.  This is not something we do once, but something we must do daily.  Jesus himself said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  Deny self and follow.  That’s what it means to sell everything.

But as it has been said before, living sacrifices tend to wiggle off the altar. I want to wiggle out of the pain.  I want to get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness.  But that is my story for my glory.  I want His story to reveal His glory.  This is why we need the Holy Spirit.  In his mercy and perfect timing, he shows us what we must sell.  Invite him into the wasteland to show you what possessions are keeping you from knowing and trusting Him more.  In His perfect love and full of grace, he will show you.  “Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

What is God asking you to sell?  Will you do it joyfully?

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