“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.” H. Nouwen
Like the “association” word game, Holly Mueller names this week’s theme: “He calls you beloved.” And–although I know “He” is God–I zone-in on “beloved,” and immediately say in return: Henri Nouwen.
Henri Nouwen, priest, professor, psychologist, “Wounded Healer,” and author of Life in the Beloved is the human instrument God used forty years into my Baptized life to convince me that I am His beloved.
Until I read that blessed book, I never thought of myself or identified myself as God’s beloved. Sure, I knew that God loved me. God loves every person He ever created. Ah, but being someone’s “beloved,” to me that raised “loving” to a whole other level.
To me, beloved describes who I am to someone. Someone can love me (show me various loving actions), but not count me as his or her “beloved.” To me, it doesn’t get any better than being one’s beloved.
Until Henri Nouwen told me, in no uncertain terms, that I am the beloved of the Lord’s, I never considered such a possibility. Reading Nouwen’s book changed my self-image in light of how God sees me, holds me up. I am not just His daughter. No. I am His beloved daughter.
Being beloved is not a passive identity; it is a dynamic relationship with God that demands an active response. And since Jesus said that if we love Him, we will love our brothers and sisters, as He loves us, which is how the Father loves Him, being the beloved is a sacrificial responsibility, as well as a privilege.
In reciprocity, in responding to God as His beloved, and in fulfilling my role, then, to God as my Beloved, Henri Nouwen explains that God invites me to love as He does: taken, blessed, broken, given.
If you have not yet read Nouwen’s book, I heartily recommend it. Though I still have a lot of believing to do that I am God’s beloved—and responding as if I really believe that—Nouwen’s book truly was transformative.
Sadly, Fr. Nouwen died almost twenty years ago. I miss his continued wisdom. Nonetheless, for me, his greatest gift was not only telling, but convincing!, me in his Life of the Beloved that I am God’s beloved.
Since reading Life of the Beloved, I’ve gone on to read more than a dozen of Fr. Nouwen’s books. In Memoriam is one that has given me great peace in response to the “loss” of those beloved to me. The Return of the Prodigal Son is an excellent book to read in response to the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
Speaking of reading his books, writing about Life of the Beloved has inspired me to once again re-read the book that so changed my life. If you haven’t read it yet—or even if you have—I hope you’ll favor yourself by joining me in that amazing, affirming reading experience.
Beloved of God. That would be us. That would be our amazing, gratuitous gift from our Loving God. That would be our core identity. And that’s well worth (re)reading about!
How or when did you discover the truth about yourself–that God calls you His beloved?