“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17, NRSV)
A couple of years ago I read a wonderful book by Henri J.M. Nouwen called, “Life of the Beloved.” (I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about living a spiritual life in our secular world. If you want to borrow my copy, just ask.) This isn’t a new book; it was originally printed in 1992. It is a book that was written to respond to questions from some non-Christian friends who wanted to know how Nouwen might explain his faith to those who most needed to hear – people who did not believe in Jesus Christ. In the end, though, the book did more to speak to those who already believe than it did to satisfy his intended audience. Nouwen reminds us that we also are God’s beloved children. He says, “Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.’ It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: ‘You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody.’” (30-31)
Living a life of spirit-filled faithfulness to God is not easy in a secular world that constantly pulls us away from God and tries desperately to convince us that we are nothing unless we have the “right” job, the “right” clothes, the “right” hairstyle, weight, car, home, etc., ad nauseum. The truth is: we are God’s beloved; we are not subject to the judgments of this world – we are beloved by God and that’s all that really matters. This is a wonderful truth to keep at the forefront of your mind every day. Only God’s opinion matters – not the opinion of advertisers in the media or your neighbors down the road. The negative voices we hear in our culture are so loud and so persuasive that it’s really easy to believe them. But listening to these voices leads us down a path of self-criticism, self-loathing, and self-rejection. We can so easily fall into the trap of believing what the world tells us that we risk forgetting the truth that God offers us. The clamor of our culture can drown out the still, small voice of God telling us we are beloved. Once we really hear this voice of God telling us that we are beloved, we want to hear more…we want to know more…we want to be more as a beloved child of God.
This is a message we must dare to claim and share with others. The reality of our world is that “many children never feel really welcomed in the world. Beneath their nervous smiles, there is often the question: ‘Am I really wanted?’…Our world is full of people who question whether it would have been better had they not been born. When we do not feel loved by those who gave us life, we often suffer our whole life long…” (57) We cannot allow the people of this world to convince us that anyone is without value. We cannot give in to a culture that manipulates, controls, and destroys the true beauty of a soul created by God and loved by God. We are God’s beloved and we must let others know that they too are beloved by God.
As more people become aware of this truth, divisions will close and wounds will be healed. “The Spirit of God, the Spirit that calls us the Beloved, is the Spirit that unites and makes whole. There is no clearer way to discern the presence of God’s Spirit than to identify the moments of unification, healing, restoration, and reconciliation. Wherever the Spirit works, divisions vanish and inner as well as outer unity manifests itself.” (135)
Only God has the power to bring people together and to bridge the gaps that divide us. Only we have the ability to open our hearts to hear God’s truth and share it with everyone we meet. This combination of God’s power and our hearing is an awesome force in the world to say to someone, “You are the Beloved of God and God loves you and wants to be in your life today.” Be God’s Beloved today.