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More Love

October 4, 2013

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Way back when, when in the blogging world people were writing about their one word intention for the year, I decided to keep it simple and just focus on love.  I decided to skip “enough,”  “patience,”  “courage,” and “joy.”  Mostly I was lazy and didn’t feel led to any one word and well, love seemed to be a nice, broad, non-threatening type of word.

And then I moved on.  I did my normal stuff, changing not much of anything as I went through my life–reading the books that had been on my pile, starting my year through the Bible  again, and going to church as usual.  This word, love, though kept coming to me.  In January, our pastor preached on Jesus’ baptism and emphasized over and over that we are God’s beloved children.  I am a beloved child of God.  God is well pleased with me.  Not often, can I remember a sermon nine months or so after it occurred, but I needed to hear that sermon and it stuck.

I careened on through life, after Jesus’s Baptism at church, reading what I was reading, not changing much.  With my dear women, I thought about how I could love others more and admitted the times I didn’t love others quite as much.  I went through traveling miles upon miles with my family this summer, seeing extended family, celebrating a life of a flawed, wonderful man, and returning to school.  When I got back to remembering to seek God, I found the message of love waiting for me again.  I heard it in Jen Hatmaker’s sermon on the purpose of life:  We were made to be loved by God.  I thought about that some more.  That doesn’t sound like a life changing sentiment, but really, when you think about it….I read it Rachel Held Evan’s words, God loves us because we are us.  I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber hint at it in her book reading/question and answer session last week–she said the church is very good at getting caught up in good causes–inclusion and recycling and forgetting why we were here (which I see as a tie in to Hatmaker’s purpose of life–we are here to be loved by God and to glorify God–which was the second part of her sermon).  We forget about claiming our belovedness.

I thought about our forgetting as I read through the prophets in the Bible–I’m a bit behind (as usual, but I’m still reading at least!).  Over and over, I listen to the prophets  and the authors of the Psalms speak the Word of God, which seems to be, “Why have you forgotten that you are my beloved?”

God covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.

God gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry.

God takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might.

No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,  those who put their hope in God’s unfailing love.  (Psalms 147:8-11)

In the midst of this, I started reading Jonathan Martin’s Prototype.  It’s not a book I love, mostly because I’m not a fan of the second person writing style.  However, I read it in bed the other night and was overtaken for a moment, when I realized once again I was God’s beloved child.  (Plus, he talks about the Devil/Satan actively attacking us and that’s one of the points I am currently unsure about…).

 But that’s one way we can identify the devil’s voice.  It always plays to our fears.  It is the voice that tells us we must do something to prove who we are, to prove that we’re worthy, to prove that we are who God has already declared us to be.  When we know we are loved by God, we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone.  There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more beloved than we are.

In the midst of text I was struggling with reading, with concepts of the devil/satan that I was hesitant about, I heard God’s word.  There is nothing I can do to make myself more beloved than I already am.  In that moment, I heard God.  There is nothing I can do to change how God feels about me.  I am beloved.  In that moment, I basked in God’s love.  Then, I closed my book and went to sleep.

In the morning, the feeling of belovedness had dimmed.  It’s a memory now, a remembering that in that moment, like the moment in church in January, I knew I was God’s beloved.  Since then, I’ve thought about it a lot.  I thought about the other things I’ve heard since then–things about serving others and how truly serving others and being present involves doing things that are inconvenient  for us or hard for us.  I’ve thought about serving others to honor their belovedness–taking care of them and treating others with gentleness because they are a beloved child of God, which makes them incredible special.  I’ve been able to do that with people I care a lot about already and I’ve been able to reach out to a person who I don’t really like.  Granted, my motives aren’t always perfect, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that God can work through poor motives and selfish reasons to make new, beautiful things.

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Since then, I’m still me.  I still struggle with feeling insecure about not being more like others–not having a perfectly decorated house (and not caring about it, really), not pushing my kids to be the best in the sports, being satisfied instead with average athletic programs for them (even though that’s what we’ve decided is best for our family), and not having my kids (and myself) dressed in the latest fashions and trends.  I look around and notice how maybe I’m not enough and I don’t measure up to others.  I give myself a hard time.  I’ve also looked at others and have inwardly judged them for not being “as good as me,” mostly in an effort to make myself feel better about myself.  I’ve judged others for being at different places of their spiritual life and for being in the wilderness–times of darkness and despair, even though I often suspect I spend a great deal of time there.  I see other’s brokeness and ignore my own.

What I’ve been reminded of though, when I go into the comparisons of myself to others, is that there is nothing I can do to make myself more beloved than I already am.  Nothing.  Other people’s belovedness doesn’t affect my own.  I shouldn’t spend my time and energy determining if I am as deserving of God’s love as others are or if they should be as loved as I am.  That does nothing but fuel fears and breed distrust.  That separates me from God’s amazing love more than anything else I can do.

Today I remember.  I hope I can also remember tomorrow and the next and the next.  The truth of the matter is, I’ll probably forget.  Eventually God will get through me to again and I’ll get a little closer to living in my promise as being beloved for who I am, not what I or others do.

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