Becoming the Beloved

believe you are the beloved“You are my beloved [Son]; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22, NABRE).

What more do we want than to hear these words? We all want to be loved. We all want to be received. We all want to please.

I think I have felt and been aware of this longing for love since I was young. As the youngest child in a family of four, I sought to set myself apart. Whether it was winning a cross-country race or performing a solo at the school choir concert, all I wanted was to be seen, to be loved, to be affirmed.

Still, this longing for love didn’t come into real focus until I began the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises a few years ago. The Spiritual Exercises begin with a reflection on God’s love for each of us as God’s beloved son or daughter. God loves us unconditionally. We belong to God, and God invites us to claim that. What a beautiful starting point. In St. Ignatius’ great wisdom, and perhaps from his own personal experience, he knew that the starting point for deepening one’s relationship with God is to acknowledge not only who we are but whose we are.

When I went through the Exercises, I remember how much I appreciated the first week. There was nothing like reflecting on Psalm 139, and meditating on those words: “LORD, you have probed me, you know me… You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” How could this be? It was everything I had always wanted and yet it seemed too good to be true. And yet, this Word of God spoke to my heart and filled me with joy.

man-sitting-aloneThree years later, I find myself returning to this first week of the exercises, returning to these passages that whisper the words that I still so desperate to hear. Why is that? Why is it so hard to believe that there is a God that loves me unconditionally? And it seems to me that the answer is simple. We live a world that tells us that our value is determined by what we do, not who we are. We don’t begin from a place of inherent value. The burden of proof is on us to demonstrate our worth by what we do, accomplish, and achieve.

In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen says that to become the beloved we must allow “the truth of our Belovedness [to] become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty hard. Nouwen readily admits that “this entails a long and painful process of appropriation, or better, incarnation.”

Still, I believe that this is what God calls me to. God invites me to do the hard work necessary to allow this truth, the deepest truth about who I am, to sink deep into my bones so that it can bring me to life, the abundance of life that Christ promises in John 10. Day in and day out, God calls me to struggle with the demons that insist that I am not the beloved, that I am not even worthy of love. God wants me to face my fears of not being good enough and know that my goodness comes first and foremost from who I am and to whom I belong.

Some days, I am not quite up for the challenge. I would rather curl up next to the demons and wallow in my fears than face the truth. But as I start this new year, here is my one resolution. I will not allow the voices of darkness to win. I will not succumb to the temptation to allow the world to determine my worth. I will take time everyday to sit and to rest in the truth of my being: I am the beloved Son with whom my God is well pleased.

13 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing these words with us today. They speak straight to me today, and perhaps they are calling me too back to the Spiritual Exercises. I first prayed through them last Lent and found them so powerful and helpful.

  2. Thank you for this powerful message which I needed to hear. I also did the 19th Annotation a few years ago and it was transformational but I always need to be reminded that I’m God’s beloved daughter. It is so amazing to me that the Creator of the universe loves even me. Blessings to you.

  3. This is such a profound blessing today reading this… as yes, I think, we do all terribly long to “realize” that unconditional Love of the Divine. I believe that down deep we all have a bit of self loathing, disappointment, self pity or frustration buried which we believe keeps us from receiving that unconditional Love—we are unworthy. And this is truly the lie of the evil one who would love for us to “wallow” as it were in our “less than” state—as that is exactly when our Loving devoted Father calls our name—
    Thank you for this wonderful reminder of our acceptance and Love—
    Julie

  4. I could wish God had also used the words Beloved Daughter… I was the 2nd-best replacement for the beloved son who died 6 days old… knowing in my head that it includes me doesn’t quite stop the actual words feeling s if they’re saying “not you, not you…”
    I’ve never realised that before… maybe the grace of “you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free” will apply here. Now I’ve become aware of this hidden barrier to grace it might simply dissolve as the frost in the full sunlight. Maybe…
    yours wistfully…

  5. I will simply leave here the words that this piece resurfaced in me:
    “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”

  6. and this morning, after last night’s wistful response…
    In prayer, encouraged to pray imaginatively about the call of Levi, the question posed was “what tone of voice might Jesus have been using? How might He be calling you?”
    I was lying on my back at the time (back problems, and it’s a good position for prayer I’m finding – as did, so I gather Ignatius…) and trying to be “good” and imagine myself into that particular Gospel scene with little success (all men again…) when in the end I simply said to Jesus “so how _are_ You calling me then? help me to hear your voice…” and instantly heard the words “Talitha, cumi” and was transported to the raising of Jairus’ daughter… alone with Jesus, His hand reaching out to take mine… His eyes gazing into mine… Daughter, arise. Affirming my gender. Affirming my being. Shutting out all the clamouring voices which would tell me I’m dead, would keep me lying down, subjugated… in God’s eyes, if not in man’s I am equal… equally beloved, equally wanted, equally created by Him, lovingly formed by Him… (I’d already spent time with Psalm 139)

  7. Hope, that is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this holy moment that you had with our Lord. Blessings.

  8. 🙂 given that until 36 hours ago, and for the previous 10 days, I’d been hour-by-hour ever more convinced that there is no God , that it’s all psychological mind-games, I reckon it was nothing short of miraculous! truly a raising from the death of hopelessness and despair.

  9. This is truly beautiful and I thank you for it. I forwarded it to friends and got more acknowledgment than I usually do. So your post is touching a chord in many hearts.
    Thank you.

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