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.