When was the last time you heard a sermon focusing on your belovedness, with no "but" attached to it? I mean, an entire Sunday service all about taking in and feeling how much God loves you and delights in you—with no mention of, or alluding to the need for you to be better than you are, resist sin, or change anything about yourself?
You are beloved.
I will never forget the life-changing impact this truth had on my life. I'm what some people might call "super sensitive." So when I felt the desire to be close to God, the journey was wrought with much guilt and frustration towards myself feeling that I was not good enough to enjoy a close relationship with Him. When I finally got that I was beloved, just as I was, it freed me up more than I could ever really put into words. I felt peace and joy like I had never before.
The other day I got to thinking about the idea of belovedness when my wife asked me to sing a song to our babies. She is eight months pregnant with twins, and they very much can hear everything in there. They respond to my voice and almost start dancing when we play them music. It's great fun.
But when she asked me to sing, I couldn't think of anything. Clearly, I'm going to have to brush up on my children's songs very soon. We thought for a minute trying to reach into the recesses of our minds back to elementary classes and Sunday school at church, then she suggested to sing them "Jesus Loves Me."
Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,—
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
I was struck by two thoughts in the moments of silence after the song was over.
The first was a desire to communicate to my children their goodness, chosenness and belovedness before God. I want them to feel with every fiber in them, that God loves them just as they are, no matter what. I want their lives to be marked by the truth that they are beautiful and good. I want them to know there is much angst they can avoid if they take this truth deep into their hearts—something I also want them to offer to those they encounter throughout their life.
The other thought that struck me was just how widely known this song really is. I don't think there is another song that is as widely known as "Jesus Loves Me." It's known by Christians and non-Christians alike, and is sung by children all over the world in their native tongues. The idea that Jesus loves us is known, and yet there seems to be a disconnect, with something huge missing—the deep belief that we are beloved, period.
If you're anything like me, you may focus on your sin, the "bad" human desires and failings. We question every motive and action because we are taught our hearts are bad, looking to deceive us. Even just writing that reminds me of the years of my life when I heard this message—memories that fill me now with an ache and energy wanting to scream out, "This is not true!"
Candice, Matthew, Cameron, Jennifer...enter your name here: You are beloved! Your desires for love, affection, community, growth, fullness, adventure, and knowledge aren't bad, even if they don't look like what you were told they should look like. Of course we aren't perfect, so when we harm others, or ourselves, a repentance of sorts is needed, but even those human feelings and experiences don’t prove that my heart, or your heart, is bad.
The understanding that we have hurt someone and want to make it right indicates that your heart is good.
In his book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living In A Secular World, Catholic priest Henri Nouwen says of belovedness:
The real "work" of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me...I kept running around it in large or small circles, always looking for someone or something able to convince me of my Belovedness....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.
Here’s the connection our belovedness has to our experience of those painful emotions I talked about earlier. As people in general, and especially as Christians, we do our best to rid ourselves of emotions like fear and jealousy. We call these "negative" emotions, and try to get rid of them for one major reason—they don’t feel good. I know this seems obvious enough, but trying to get rid of them is tricky.
Some of us look to addictions, distractions, or coping mechanisms to deal with the discomfort of these feelings. I am convinced the one and only way to truly rid ourselves of these painful emotions is to bring them in close, to embrace them, and to sit with them. We need to make them our friend and when we do, we can let go of them.
You cannot do this if you don't also already deeply know your belovedness.
They will not only threaten your idea of who you are, but it will be too painful for you if you're not convinced of your goodness beforehand, thus making it impossible to really deal with, feel, and let go of those hard emotions.
If you know and deeply believe you are beloved, you can sit with the painful feelings until you're ready to let go of them, thus experiencing a freedom many people never really get.
Originally published on Candice Czubernat in April 2014; Image by Candice Czubernat