I would like to extend a very Happy New Year to the readers of Toward Hope and I would also like to pose a question for you. Do you know that you are beloved? No, really…do you know this in a deep way? Do you know that you are loved beyond measure by the one who breathed life into you? Perhaps the dawn of a new year is a fitting time to reflect and remember this truth about yourself. Come with me, if you will, on a journey of how I have been blessed this day… and perhaps you might share my blessing.
Yesterday as our family was getting ready to visit our good friends Rick and Cari, our son, Nathaniel, fell sick. That meant we stayed home cleaning up after him and celebrating the New Year with a little sickness. It was a quiet night. After the kids went down, I thought to read, so I reached for Henri Nouwen’s book, “Life of the Beloved” and thought this short book would be a great way to start the new year.
This book is a letter to a dear friend of Nouwen’s named Fred, and is an attempt to explain the spiritual life in simple and understandable terms. It is written with the non believer in mind. Nouwen offers the single word “beloved” as the one to cling to; the word that summarizes the essence of the spiritual journey toward God. The journey toward realizing our belovedness is the one that leads to God. How simple a truth that we so often forget; our “belovedness”. So are you beloved?
The answer is “Yes” according to Nouwen. Even those of us in the Christian faith who know in our heads that we are beloved struggle to live out this truth deeply from our hearts. even as Christian’s we struggle for affirmation, approval, and rejection of self in debilitating ways that hinder our growth. Nouwen writes this book in the spirit of the affirming voice of God upon Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16-17) and suggests that we are chosen in similar regard. He reminds us that the latent feelings of self-rejection that lie within are only remedied by a realization of our belovedness. For recognizing our belovedness can soothe the deep “…darkness of not feeling truly welcome in human existence” (pg. 32). Can you identify with this feeling of not feeling welcome in the human experience? I often can and think this is the source of much idleness and fear for me.
In the rest of the book, Nouwen takes us through four key words that provide a map for identifying the Spirit’s movement in our lives. The words: “Taken, Blessed, Broken, and Shared“, provide a context for realizing our belovedness. If you remember, I reviewed Robert Benson’s book, Living Prayer, and one of the chapters focused on these four words as being the pattern of the Eucharist. For in the same way as the bread is taken, blessed, broken, and shared, realizing our belovedness requires that we traverse these movements in our lives as we journey toward God. It is, after all, the same pattern woven in the life of Christ and if we are disciples we ought to follow this same path. For it is the path to freedom from self-rejection and the stories that cripple our lives and enslave us to foreign gods.
So I pray that you know that you are beloved on this day. Know that on you the favor of God rests and he is well pleased. You are chosen and blessed by God and in a mysterious and miraculous way, your embrace of “belovedness” brings out in others that they too are beloved. May you live in the peace of your belovedness this year and may your journey toward God be blessed with much fruit and freedom.