Day 14 – What We Have
Not only does the false self show up as we are tempted to craft an identity around “what we do,” it can also arise as we connect our hearts to “what we have.” Certainly, in the wilderness, so often shaped by loss or lack, we are very aware of what we don’t have. The idolatry of what we possess can be quite deceptive because what we possess are generally good things, needed things. The trouble arises in how we are possessing them.
As the wilderness lays us bare, we become aware that things are amiss and the need for deep soul work is brought to our attention. Our impulse can be to deal with it on our own, to use our own resources to address our emptiness, nakedness, and loneliness. The impulse “to do” or produce is a response to the emptiness (we explored this yesterday), the impulse to “possess” response to the experience of feeling naked, or exposed. Tomorrow, we will explore how we deal with our loneliness through the idol of “what other’s think about us.” All of these are self-protective strategies and time in the wilderness is designed to strip of these things so we will take up what God provides.
First, what are the specific possessions we may use to protect or cover ourselves? It could be so many things: finances, good health, family, nationality, knowledge, relationships, experiences, etc. Let’s pause here for a moment. Do you use any of these “possessions” to cover your shame? Are there other “possessions” the Lord is bringing to your awareness? You might consider what it would be like to lose any of these things. What happens in your heart and mind as you reflect? Do you notice yourself in some kind of discomfort? Is there a reaction of clinging?
Dismantling the idol of “what we have” occurs as we notice our attachment and clinging, and then trust that God’s provision is enough. Unexamined, our clinging to things other than Christ can function like a computer program running underneath our awareness. Advertisers and marketers know this incredibly well and utilize it to stir a “sense of need” where need does not necessarily exist. The supposed scarcity of things is also something that can cultivate an attachment to things, even a hoarding of possessions.
The challenge for us … do we believe that what God’s provides is enough? Do we believe that life in in Him is truly abundant? And are we noticing when our hunger and need is being manipulated? For Jesus in the wilderness, the enemy came to Him to attempted to exploit the real hunger He was experiencing as He fasted. “’If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But He answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3-4) Notice how Jesus responds. He doesn’t deny that He was hungry. He also doesn’t deny that bread is something needed for life. He does refuse to trust in His own resources (as the Son of God) to cover His hunger. He also recognized that something deeper than physical hunger was in play: will I trust where the Father has me right now? Jesus’ trust/rest in being the beloved was being tested, as is ours in a wilderness season.
Jesus’s response of not living by bread alone is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 and in the verse that follows we find a fascinating statement: “Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.” It might seem like a meaningless detail. However, the inclusion of this detail, right after talking about the provision of manna and that their lives were sustained by God, points to something deeper than just clothes and good foot health. God was saying, “I took care of you. I provided for you.” As we consider how naked and exposed we feel in the wilderness, God wants to remind us of His provision. In 1 Peter 1:4, we read that in Christ, we have “an inheritance (clothing, provision) that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” And then, Peter discusses walking through trials so that our faith is tested. By faith, we trust in God’s provision for all things we need, and then that faith is tested. The prayer of David in Psalm 23 reminds us of this perspective as well … “The Lord is my Shepherd; I don’t need a thing.”
1 John 2:16 calls this temptation to idolatry “pride in one’s possessions,” and it highlights the need for humility. David Benner echoes this: “The way of the true self is always the way of humility. Pride and arrogance move us toward our false self, but humility and love allow us to live the truth of our being.” As we become aware of our need being stirred and directed away from humble trust, we look to God in humility, trusting in His provision.
So, in contrast to the expression of the false self which is about what we have, the true self rests in God’s provision … receiving His provision as enough. What might that look like for you? How will you release an identity based on possessions and remember that what He provides is truly enough?
Question for reflection: how do you see the false self of “what we have” at work in your life?
Prayer: Lord, give me the wisdom to see Your provision and to humbly trust that it is enough for me. I am grateful for the way that You provide everything I need for a life of godliness. Amen.