We are the beloved

We are the beloved

Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2013-06-25). Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life (p. 133-136). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

At the core of my faith belongs the conviction that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God. What the Father said to Jesus the Son, God also says to us: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”( Luke 3: 22 NRSV). Dear friends, I want you to hear this: what is said of Jesus is said of you. I know this can be hard to affirm. You are the beloved daughter or son of God. Can you believe it? Can you hear it not only in your head through your physical ears but in your gut, hear it so that your whole life can be turned around? Go to the scriptures and read: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have written your name in the palm of my hand from all eternity. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you in your mother’s womb. I love you. I embrace you. You are mine and I am yours and you belong to me.” You have to hear this, because if you can hear this divine voice speak to you from all eternity, then your life will become more and more the life of the beloved, because that is who you are. When you start believing this, this spiritual knowledge will grow until it transforms your daily life.

You will still have rejections and you will still have pain and losses, but you will live them no longer as a person searching for his or her identity. You will live them as the beloved. You will live your pain and anguish, your successes and failures, as one who knows who you are. And that’s not easy. Most of us constantly fail to claim the truth of who we truly are.

Claiming Our Belovedness Not long after I arrived as a priest at L’Arche Daybreak community, I had a powerful experience of offering the blessing of belovedness to another. Shortly before I started a prayer service, Janet, a member of our community, said to me: “Henri, can you give me a blessing?” I responded in a somewhat automatic way by tracing with my thumb the sign of the cross on her forehead. “No, that doesn’t work,” she said. “I want a real blessing!” I suddenly became aware of the inadequacy of my response and said, “Oh, I am sorry, let me give you a real blessing when we are all together for the prayer service.” She nodded with a smile, and I realized that something special was required of me.

After the service, when about thirty people were sitting on the floor, I said, “Janet has asked me for a special blessing. She feels she needs that now.” Janet stood up and walked toward me. I stood up and opened my arms to welcome Janet as she walked up and laid her head on my chest. Putting my hands on her shoulders, the sleeves of my robe enveloped her. I looked at her and said, “Janet, I want you to know that you are God’s beloved daughter. You are precious in God’s eyes. Your beautiful smile, your kindness to the people in your house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: a very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you.” As I said these words, Janet raised her head and looked at me; she smiled and said, “Thanks, Henri. That’s so much better than the first one.”

The blessings we give each other are expressions of the blessing that rests on us from all eternity. It is the ultimate compliment, the deepest affirmation of our true identity in God. The truth is that God loved us before we were born and will love us still after we have died. God molded us in the depths of the earth. God knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs. God has inscribed us on the palm of his hand. Every hair on our heads is numbered and counted by God. We are held by God in an everlasting embrace. We belong to God from eternity to eternity. Indeed, we are God’s daughters and sons. As beloved children, our core identity is secure in the memory of God. Whether we do anything worthwhile, prove anything important, or give anything of value, God still loves us unconditionally. It is a strong, vital, and active fatherly and motherly kind of love that holds us safe and affirms our worth, wherever we go and whatever we do.   Our first and most important spiritual task is to claim God’s unconditional love for ourselves. To remember who we truly are in the memory of God. Whether we feel it or not, whether we comprehend it or not, we can have spiritual knowledge in the heart— a deep assurance that passes understanding— that we are God’s beloved.

This is not an easy identity to claim because to deserve being loved our society requires us to be successful, popular, or powerful. But God does not require our success, popularity, or power in order to love us. Once we discern our identity and accept God’s unconditional love, we are free to live in the world without being owned by the world. We can forgive those who hurt or disappoint us without letting bitterness, jealousy, or resentment enter our hearts. The most beautiful fruit of claiming your belovedness is a joy that allows us to share God’s unconditional love with others. Strange as it may sound, we can become like God for others. From the moment we claim the truth of being the beloved, we are faced with the call to become who we are. Becoming the beloved, remembering who we are, is the greatest blessing in our lives!

In Latin, to bless is benedicere, which means “speaking (dictio) well (bene)” or saying good things of someone. I need to hear good things said of me, and I know you have the same need. I need to learn to speak well of the work God is doing in my life and yours, not with self-congratulation but with humble awareness of divine activity. To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a phrase of appreciation; it is more than praising another’s gifts or good deeds. To give a blessing is to affirm another’s core identity, to say yes to a person’s belovedness. Claiming our belovedness does not come easily for many of us. There are competing voices we hear. When one voice says we’re nothing but a sinner and another voice says we are the beloved of God, we are called to discern the spirits and follow the inner voice of love.

[Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2013-06-25). Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life (p. 133-136). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.]