Living from Belovedness.

This past semester, I wrote a research paper on the life, theology, and ministry of Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, writer, and psychologist, who blessed the world with his kindness and his seemingly endless insights. As I read his writings, I fell ‘in love’ with his explained concepts of Belovedness – specifically, living Beloved as God’s dear children. His thoughts have reworked and reframed my most basic ideas of God’s love, and while my paper is complete, I know that I will spend a lifetime chewing on Henri’s sweet insights of the Father.

Essentially, living as God’s Beloved helps us to identity with Jesus, find our hearts’ true home in the Father, and value the life of our neighbor.

At the start of Jesus’ ministry, when John the Baptist immerses him in water at his baptism, a voice is heard from Heaven. It’s the voice of the Father. He proclaims over His Son, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Henri suggests that this proclamation is not merely an affirmation; rather, this proclamation is the very strength from which Jesus drew his earthly ministry. Jesus’ very identity was found in the beautiful, cosmic, and earthy Love of His Father that fueled his love for his fellow humans.

Because we are God’s children, we are Beloved by God, not because of anything we have done or will do; no, we are Beloved because we are made in His image. Though culture and media blare loudly with promises that one’s identity must be found in what he or she purchases, wears, and consumes, it’s oh-so-easy for identity to be found in those places. But that identity is not lasting; this identity is not our hearts’ true home. Henri writes:

Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests” – the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. I have heard that voice. It has spoken to me in the past and continues to speak to me now. It is the never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity and giving life and love whenever it is heard. When I hear that voice, I know that I am home with God and have nothing to fear (Nouwen).

Only when we live with an awareness that we are God’s Beloved will we have any security at all. It’s in this Belovedness that we can live into sustainable ministry to others.

For, when we recognize our own Belovedness, only then can we see the Belovedness in others. We see this not by personal comparison – tracking our highs and lows according to societal standards. No, we see this Belovedness when we realize that love is not truly received until it is freely given. When we realize how truly Beloved we are as individuals, we will desire more than anything for others to see their true value in the Father. And in this valuing, we can partake in authentic and beautiful community with our fellow human, knowing that he and she is the very valued child of God.

May you, my reader, nestle a little closer to God’s heart today and realize (perhaps for the first time or perhaps anew) that you are God’s Beloved.

Mournful, but Prayerful.

{Warning: this post is political in nature}

I must be honest and up-front with my emotions. I am hurting. More than once, I have cried about the results of this Presidential election. Quite honestly, I would have felt a tinge of dissatisfaction no matter what the results. Thus, my tears are not indicative solely of the results of the Presidential election; rather, they speak to my experience of mourning and of misrepresentation.

This election has made it incredibly difficult for me to wear the name “evangelical.” It’s made me feel incredibly distanced from many in the Church – from those I deeply love. As a woman, I’ve felt the weight of what it means not only to be objectified, but also what it means to not be advocated for as one who is made in the very image of God. This election has been a time of ideological upheaval for me personally, causing me to question the very foundations of my political perspectives up until this point. I’ve revisited how I define ‘personhood,’ ‘dignity,’ ‘selfless living,’ ‘incarnational mission,’ among other terms. And, truly, my faith in Christ directly informs how I define these terms.

My faith informs me to value ‘the other,’ treating them as brothers and sisters (Mark 12:31).

My faith informs me to treat both those different from me and those similar to me with dignity and with respect (1 Peter 2:17).

My faith informs me to live not in a way that advances my own agenda; rather, I am to be a servant of all, and thus emulating the character of Jesus (Mark 9:35).

My faith informs me to speak life (Proverbs 18:21), to care for the widow and the orphan (James 1:27), to speak out for the disenfranchised (Proverbs 14:31).

Throughout the Presidential election cycle, ever since the President-Elect came onto the scene, I knew in my heart of hearts that I could not vote for him. I recognized that his attributes did not represent what informed my faith in Christ, and if I voted for him, I would be voting against the very declarations I’ve made above.

What’s especially troubled me throughout the election is how strongly evangelical leaders and conservative media have tried to convince evangelicals that he is a Christian. And while one’s salvation decision is personal to him and Christ, when one claims that he does not need forgiveness for his sins, there’s reason to believe such a decision has not been made. I would not and cannot pretend that any part of him is Christ-like, no matter what popular evangelical leaders have tried to convince the populace. I will not pretend that this leader lives out Christ-like values. If others will know we are Christians by our love and good fruits, I’m truly sad to say that I would never know that the President-Elect is a Christian. And, how dangerous it is for evangelicals if we define ‘Christian leadership’ as the actions of this man. Additionally, I refuse to compare the President-Elect to the Apostle Paul or to King David or to any Christian leader who lived out the love of Christ in their day-to-day lives.

But I will pray for our incoming President. I will pray with all my heart that though his heart is clearly not seeking the ways of God, he will still miraculously be God’s vessel for justice, for mercy, for humility.

In the Anglican church service, often between the Sermon and the Nicene Creed, we as a body participate collectively in the “Prayers of the People.” Among these prayers are thanksgivings to God, as well as petitions, including requests for God’s peace to be with the hurting, the fearful, and the broken. We request that God’s presence be present in the tension of the world’s suffering. Additionally, we pray for the leaders of our city, our state, and our country. For more Sundays than I can count, I have prayed for these leaders – calling them by their first names – asking the Lord to help them to govern rightly in His truth. For the Sundays that follow January 20th – four years’ worth – I will pray with fervency for ‘Donald,’ asking that the Lord will guide him as he seeks to lead this country. And while this prayer in my heart may often be filled with heaviness and with distraught heart, I trust and I know that it will be heard by the Lord – the One who gives me strength to live out shalom.

He’s the One who lets me be a vessel for justice, for mercy, for humility. Praise be to God.