You Are God’s Beloved Child
I would like to share with you some of the good things that I got from reading Henri Nouwens book, Life of the Beloved’ which has become a spiritual classic. The late Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest and one of the great spiritual writers of our day.
As believers in Christ we believe that we are God’s beloved children. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks to our spirits telling us that we are God’s children. And that we can call God our Father or our “Abba” which means our “Papa”. The Bible says: “…for you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15a-17b) The Holy Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then “heirs”, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,…”
Every time we hear the Holy Spirit’s voice whispering in our hearts that we are beloved children of God and God is our “Papa we want to hear more. It isn’t easy to hear the Spirit’s voice in a world filled with other voices that tell us: “You are a nobody.” “You are guilty.” “You are ugly.” Throughout our lifetime we will hear so many voices telling us that we aren’t good enough that we can easily start believing them.
We keep running around looking for someone or something to convince us that we are good enough to be loved. But we are God’s chosen ones even when the world does not choose us. Self rejection is a great enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the Spirit’s call telling us that we are God’s beloved children - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ! We need to claim this truth of who we are in Christ and live it out. This core truth is that we are God’s beloved and very dear to Him. (Song of Solomon 7:10)
We no longer belong to ourselves to do our own thing. We now belong to God, our Father. (1 Corinthians 6:20) We gave our lives to Him when we believed and now the Spirit is urging us along a new joyful path and we haltingly follow. Becoming the Beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make in this life!
Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become part of everything we think, say, or do. To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, Henri Nouwen has found it helpful to use four words: (1) “taken”, (2)“blessed”, (3)“broken” and (4)“given”. He believes that as a Christian we are called to become “bread” for the world: bread that is taken, blessed, broken and given.
To be “taken” means to be “chosen.” As the “Beloved” we are God’s chosen ones and seen as special. Long before we were born and became part of history, we were in God’s heart. (Jeremiah 1:5) Because we were “chosen” does not mean that others were rejected. This is a mystery. I believe that God wants (or has chosen) every person to be His child (John 3:16) (2 Peter 3:9) but every person in the world does not want or has not chosen to belong to God. God’s invitation – the gift of salvation - has gone out but many have not accepted it. (Hebrews 2:3)
To get in touch with our chosenness when we are surrounded by rejections we first need to keep reminding ourselves that the world is manipulative, controlling, and power hungry. We are not a “nobody” just because we aren’t rich and powerful by the world’s standards. And secondly we need to keep looking for people and places where the truth that we are a beloved child of God is spoken and where we are reminded of our identity in Christ. And the third thing we need to do is constantly celebrate our chosenness. Keep saying “thank you” to God for having chosen us. Gratitude is the best way to deepen our consciousness that we are not the “accident” the world tells us we are. Our chosenness opens our eyes to the chosenness of others too!
The second word “blessed” is important because we fearful, anxious, insecure human beings are so very much in need of a blessing. We need each other’s blessings. By the word “blessing” we mean saying good things about someone. Without affirmations and blessings it is hard to live well! A blessing is to say “yes” to a person’s belovedness.
The world will beat us up and that is all the more reason that we need to listen for the Spirit’s voice that continues to bless us as we walk through life. Scripture says: “His compassions do not fail, his blessings are new every morning: Great is Your (God’s) faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22b-23) Let’s be attentive to the blessings that are new every morning and that come our way day after day! Name them and count them on purpose and you will be amazed at what God does for you each day.
My body heals itself of so many illnesses and ailments. Each time it is a gift or blessing from God and I am thankful. I had back surgery several years ago and the doctor put screws and bolts in my spine to make it longer. New bone cells needed to grow into an inch of new space and my doctor was concerned that that might not happen. But over time (and prayer) little by little new bone cells appeared out of nowhere and filled in the extra inch of space around the bolts and screws and my back became strong again. I felt like God had personally come down and handed me a precious blessing. (which He did!) Scripture says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father…” (James 1:17)
There is power in our blessings! Power in a parent’s blessing of their children and power in the children’s blessing of their parent. The blessings that we give to each other are expressions of the blessings that rest on us from God. As children of Light we need to go through the world spreading light and love and blessing. Many of us suffer from a deep sense of being cursed. We hear that inner voice that calls us bad, worthless, useless, doomed to sickness. Stay away from the darkness and do not listen to the world’s lies!
We need to know how to hear and claim our blessing. Henri Nouwen offers two suggestions for claiming your blessedness. The first one is prayer. The real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about you. When we are still before God listening for His voice with our lives open before Him, often we can hear Him speak to our hearts and our lives are changed and blessed.
And the second suggestion for claiming our blessedness is paying attention to the blessings that come to us day after day, year after year. We often get too busy to notice that we are being blessed! Without a conscious desire to “waste” our time, it is hard to hear the blessing. Claiming your own blessedness always leads to a desire to bless others. To speak words of blessing wherever we go! And people want to be blessed! We can walk through life offering blessings and praying for people. It flows naturally from our hearts!
Every beloved child of God who has been chosen and blessed, has also lived with brokenness in their life. We all suffer and feel rejected and ignored and left alone. Our bodies are tense and we sometimes keep our guard up. If we feel that we no longer have anything to offer to anyone, we lose our grip on life. It is tempting to feel like a victim – to allow ourselves to live under the curse and the darkness of pain and rejection. Instead of living out our brokenness as a confirmation of our fears, Henri Nouwen suggests that we are to allow God’s blessing to touch us in our brokenness. To experience the suffering as a way to a deeper trust in God.. To trust God to take care of it.
And the fourth word is “given” because our lives are fulfilled in giving ourselves to others. We don’t have to spend money to give a smile, a handshake, a word of love, an embrace, a part of our life. Life finds its fulfillment in giving. Our life itself is the greatest gift we can give. And the question isn’t “What can we offer each other?” but “Who can we be for each other?” The one who helps us the most is the one who is willing to share his or her life with us!
Henri Nouwen closes his book by suggesting that we are called to become bread for each other – bread for the world. He believes that our short little lives can bear fruit beyond the boundaries of the years that we are alive. That God can abundantly multiply the little blessings we give to one another throughout our lives. And like the boy who gave Jesus his little lunch and more than five thousand people were fed with it (John 6:1-15), Jesus can use the little gifts you give Him to do more than you can ever imagine.
The book ends with these words: “One of the greatest acts of faith is to believe that the few years we live on this earth are like a little seed planted in a very rich soil. For this seed to bear fruit, it must die. We often see or feel only the dying, but the harvest will be abundant, even when we ourselves are not the harvesters.”
The ideas from this blog are taken from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved”