And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17)
On Sunday, I baptized a little girl who was beautiful and full of wonder. When her mother placed her in my hands, she became nervous and frightened. Unaware of what was taking place, I turned her over so she could see the water. I lowered her down far enough so her hands could touch it. Immediately, she started to play with it and the fascination with the water took away her fear.
Comfortable with the water, she didn’t mind it washing over her head. Matter of fact, it unleashed a new level of curiosity about the world. Lifting her back up against my chest, she placed her hands on my face and played with my microphone. Little Ryann, child of God, had been transformed from apprehension and fear into a place of comfort and peace.
This morning I woke up and, for personal reasons, needed to read Henri Nouwen. As I leafed through the pages of Nouwen’s, “Life of the Beloved,” I found my self bothered by something from the baptism. Did I tell Ryann she was “Beloved?” When she came out of the water were the first words she heard, “You are my Beloved?” We speak of promises, of new identity, of hope, of letting a light shine so others may see, but I don’t think I told her she was the Beloved of God.
When my own children were baptized, I remember thinking I just want them to know they are loved. Love was something I could provide. It never dawned on me how difficult it would be for them to know they are Beloved by God. To know God cannot speak their name without attaching to it these words, my Beloved. If you were to ask my children, I doubt they would even identify this need, but it is there in every breath of their existence.
There are words of love a parent cannot provide. It needs to come from a community larger than a home. From the moment the baptismal gown is outgrown, our children will be judged and evaluated. How fast will they learn to walk, read, and do chores? How well can they learn to throw a ball, play a trumpet, dance or sing? When they’ve learned these skills, they will be placed in competition with their friends.
The older we get the more difficult it becomes to hear words of love, especially words like God speaking, you are my Beloved. These words find tough competition with words of destruction. Words like, you’re ugly, you’re no good, you can’t do much, why should I talk with you? Words of destruction, as Nouwen points out, leads to self-rejection. If were honest with ourselves we know how long, deep and dark the battle with self-rejection can be. And, how much this battle consumes us.
Yesterday I spent the day in a house full of wounded souls, including my own. In the midst of the brokenness, love between friends, family and even strangers overflowed. Still, there was a hungering to hear and know one thing, Am I Beloved by God? Today, I just want you to know you are Beloved by God and to live into that reality.
We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved.” Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
Click to read: Matthew 3: 13-17
How much do you long to hear these words and believe them? What holds you back from believing them? Are you helping or hindering others from living into this truth? How can you share it with others?