Monday, 24 July 2017

Being and becoming the Beloved

In his book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, Henri Nouwen speaks of the words the Father spoke of Jesus at his baptism:
"No sooner had Jesus come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him.  And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you.'"
This has been historically recognized as the same thing God speaks in the baptism of all Christians: "You are my beloved daughter/son; my favour rests on you."  But Nouwen notes that, while this is true - God's children are his beloved - there is also a process by which we must become the beloved, become what we are.
"Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.  It is like discovering a well in the desert.  Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper." 
"Being the Beloved is the origin and the fulfillment of the life of the Spirit.  I say this because, as soon as we catch a glimpse of that truth, we are put on a journey in search of the fullness of that truth and we will not rest until we can rest in that truth.  From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced with the call to become who we are.  Becoming the Beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make.  Augustine's words: "My soul is restless until it rests in you, O God," capture well this journey.
Becoming what we are sounds very Pauline, like knowing we are justified but leaning into that justification by keeping in step with the Spirit on the pilgrimage of sanctification.  The first half of most of his epistles remind us who we are in Christ and the second half encourage and exhort us to become who we are by putting off who we used to be and putting on and living out our new life in Christ, the new life of the Spirit.
"Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do.  It entails a long and painful process of appropriation or, better, incarnation.  As long as "being the Beloved" is little more than a beautiful thought or a lofty idea that hangs above my life to keep me from becoming depressed, nothing really changes.  What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless realities of everyday life.  Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour."
"When our deepest truth is that we are the Beloved and when our greatest joy and peace come from fully claiming that truth, it follows that this has to become visible and tangible in the ways we eat and drink, talk and love, play and work.  When the deepest currents of our life no longer have any influence on the waves at the surface, then our vitality will eventually ebb, and we will end up listless and bored even when we are busy."
James would agree with this sentiment, for our faith is no real faith if it is not lived out in the things we do, the words we say and the thoughts we think.  John would say that we cannot claim to know God unless we love each other.  In other words our relationship with God must manifest in how we interact with people in all of life.  As Paul would say, "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  We must grow into the fullness of who we are in Christ and that means manifesting that fullness in the little everyday things during which we often don't really think about or realize our status as God's Beloved.

"...I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  - Ephesians 3:14-19
"To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use four words: taken, blessed, broken and given.  These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it.  These words also summarize my life as a Christian because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: bread that is taken, blessed, broken and given.  Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessing, the breaking and the giving are happening....these four words....are the keys to understanding not only the lives of the great prophets of Israel and the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but also our own lives."
 "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  - Ephesians 5:1-2

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