Promised Land

All posts tagged Promised Land

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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The X Factor

Published September 27, 2011 by joypatton

It’s the reason I never pursued acting as a career.  It’s the uncontrollable part of the equation that you can’t predict or try harder to get.  I couldn’t imagine going to auditions knowing that even if I was the best trained and best rehearsed actress and nailed every line, I wouldn’t get the part if I was taller than the leading man or if they wanted someone with brown hair instead of blonde.  It was simply too unpredictable, so I stopped playing the game and went into English education.  Much more predictable.  A field that rewarded knowledge and training.  Things I had a lot of control over.  My classroom became my stage and my kingdom where I could play and win.

However now I find myself in the game again.  And I know I’m not alone.  With a husband who works in the entertainment industry, I see behind the scenes every day.  Bands that practice really hard, write really good songs and play a great live show, but can’t get booked on a tour.  Songwriters and singers that work hard every day at their craft, hoping that something will hit it big with radio.  Right now I’m an author with a great idea for a book, but the publishers have passed saying “It’s just not the right fit.”  And we all try harder, work more, blog more, tweet more, learn more.  But in reality we are waiting for the X to fall into place.

When you’re an artist and a Christian, the X factor is God.  We must not forget that ultimately it is God’s favor that breaks a band big or gets the hit song or sells the great book.  God is the One who makes great artists and inspires them.  He is the Creator, the One who made us to create.  Sometimes I wonder why God’s favor seems to be on everyone else and not me.  Why am I sitting and waiting while someone else is rising and going?  When will it be my turn to go? Yes, I am the whining Orphan who forgets that God is big enough and powerful enough to accomplish His purposes.

And what exactly are His purposes?  Do great tours, number one songs and best sellers mean success to Him?  For some people, success is the thing He uses to bring them crashing down to the end of themselves and ultimately to Himself.  For others, the lack of success is the thing that brings them to the end of themselves and ultimately closer and more dependent on God than they have ever been.  The thing is that I don’t get to pick which one; God does.  If I don’t find the kind of success I was looking for, does that mean I missed God?  Does it mean that I have missed the calling?  Does it mean I should quit and go find a more predictable job where the outcome seems easier to control?

I have come to see living my dream as an author and Bible teacher as my parallel to being in the Promised Land.  It’s the place God has been leading me to and preparing me for.  I was recently reading in Deuteronomy 2 where the Israelites were finally entering the Promised Land.  As they entered, God guided them through each section and told them what to do.  Several times, the Lord says, “Do not harass or contend with them, for I will not give you their land as your possession because I have given it to them as their possession.”  Basically God says that mountain belongs to them.  Keep your hands off.  However there are other people that the Lord gives to Israelites as their possession because they rebelled against the Lord.

This is good news and bad news.  The bad news is that I don’t get their mountain.  I may not get a national women’s ministry like Beth Moore and you may not get that hit single like Casting Crowns.  But the good news is that God has a possession for me and for you, and He keeps his promises.  When He gives me my possession, whatever size or scale it may be, it will be mine.  No one else can take that possession from me without permission from God.  God is the One who is sovereign over all.  He is the One who can turn the river into a desert and springs of water into thirsty ground.  But He is also the One who turns the desert into pools of water and the parched land into springs of water, and “there he brought the hungry to dwell, and they founded a city where they could settle.” (Psalm 107:36)

God has given me hungry people to feed, and people who need a place to belong.  So they are my possession.  It’s not the numbers game of success that I am often tempted to play.  A game of comparing myself to others and complaining about why I don’t get the possession I think I need.  So if you are an artist in God’s kingdom, I pray that you are encouraged to keep creating and keep feeding the sheep God has given to you.  Rejoice that He has a possession for you and do not contend with or harass other people’s possessions.  We can trust Him to lead us where we need to go.   Keep waiting on Him…it’s the best, hardest thing we can do.

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