Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest known for his intellect and his compassion. He shocked people when he gave up a prestigious career teaching at Harvard to live among a community of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. I’ve always admired the way he lived what he taught and so I took a class in graduate school that was exclusively about the life and writings of Nouwen. I’ll never forget the day my professor showed a video of one of Nouwen’s final sermons before his death. In his beautiful Dutch accent, Nouwen described how God views us as his beloved sons and daughters. And I’ve been enamored with the word beloved ever since.
Just look at some of the definitions of the word beloved: dearly loved, a much loved person, darling, favorite, sweetheart, esteemed, and worthy of love. It’s a word used to describe how a husband feels about his wife, a parent feels about their children, how God described His feelings about Jesus, and how God feels about us. 1 John 3:1 (The Voice), “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.”
Not every translation chooses this beautiful word, but for what it’s worth, I think it is the perfect choice to try to grasp the way God feels about us and more than that, relates to us. In the original Greek, the word translated as beloved is agapeous, unconditionally loved. God views us as being worthy of His love! What is love though? It is a word that our society has twisted and diminished. I once heard a well-known pastor define love as “to provide for and protect.” This definition didn’t sit well with me and I couldn’t figure out why. Then it dawned on me. His definition was void of emotion. I can provide and protect for someone out of selfish reasons – and that is not love. Love is when you sacrificially provide for and protect someone else. When you give for another at a cost to yourself. That’s love. And that’s what God does for us.
But how can God love me to the point of making me His child when I’m so broken and selfish and stubborn and sinful? It’s because the word “beloved” implies action on the part of the one doing the loving and requires little from the one being loved. Notice another amazing word in that verse, the word lavish. God lavishes love on us! Lavish means extravagant, giving to excess, abundant, and generous. God never holds back with his love. He’s never stingy. He never withholds. How often I’ve thanked God that my relationship with Him is built on His faithfulness to me and not on my faithfulness to Him! And so it is with love. God loves me with an active and a fiercely loyal love. He sees me as worthy of His love, even when I am not. Amazing.
So how do you define love? And what does being God’s beloved mean to you?
When I was a little kid I loved to dress up like whatever I was watching on television. If it was a Western, I’d get out my Cowboy boots, plastic spurs, holster with the two silver cap guns. I’d find my Cowboy hat, tie a red bandana around my neck, and put on my little red felt vest with the yellow sheriff badge sewn on one side. I’d ride my rocking horse just like the lawmen in the show. During music shows, I’d find my toy microphone and do my best Michael Jackson impersonation. And each year during the World Series, you’d find me sitting in my jersey, holding a bat, or wearing my glove. I so badly wanted to be the people I saw on television. We all long to discover who we are. Whether we are playing dress up as a 4 year old, struggling to fit in as a 14 year old, or longing for worth as a 40 year old, we want to know who we are and that who we are matters.
So often we look for identity in places that never satisfy. We look for identity in our accomplishments – earning straight As, making the game winning shot, or getting the cutest girl in school to say yes to a date. We accumulate things or titles to feel good about who we are – the popularity that wearing the trendiest clothes or having the newest gadgets bring us or the influence titles we desire like “class president” or “homecoming queen” or “team captain” provide. Finally, we long for accolades from others to give us an ego boost. We look to what other people have to say about us to affirm our worth and give us identity. And all of these things fall short. They are all so temporary. They are all out of our control because they are outside of who we are. These things are meant to describe, but never define. Only the one who created you can define you. And He defines you as His beloved child – dearly love, His favorite. 1 John 3:1a says, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children (The Voice).”
Let’s call out all the ways we try to find identity that do not work and reclaim our one true identity as God’s beloved children. Let’s push back against the world’s definition of worth and value and claim the truth that lasting and fulfilling worth and value come from Jesus Christ alone. Let’s reject the lie that who you are must be earned and reclaim the truth that who you are is a gift given by God. Let’s begin to reject identity from the outside and begin to accept identity from the inside.
So how do you define yourself? Where do you find worth and value? How have those things left you feeling unsatisfying and wanting more?
Welcome to MND GMZ Ministries!! This ministry is committed to one thing – identity. Who are you? Do you matter? The world has a lot to say about this and the overload of information causes confusion and can play serious mind games with us (catch that – mind games). The good news is that God has even more to say about your value, worth, and identity. And what He has to say provides clarity and brings comfort. The world has bent and twisted the rules of how we define ourselves, it’s time we reclaim the rules and find identity in Christ, which was the way it was always been meant to be. In a nutshell that is what this ministry, and this blog, is all about.
My hope is that you join me by engaging in conversation with me and with other readers. Let’s dialogue with one another! Let’s make this a place where truth is spoken, lies are confronted, encouragement is offered, and blessings abound. The words may begin as mine, but my hope is that this is a space where my head and heart are met by the Holy Spirit and then taken further by your responses and thoughts. Let’s all follow wherever the Holy Spirit leads. Let’s journey together. Put on your favorite pair of sneakers (the crazier the color the better) and let’s walk towards greater understanding of who God is, how He loves us, and who He says we are. Let’s learn to live like we really, truly believe 1 John 3:1, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children (The Voice).”
Initially I began to write a paragraph thanking everyone who has already journeyed with me to this point. The paragraph soon became a page. Needless to say, I’m blessed! So for time and space sake, I say thank you to all of you who have already played an integral role in the launching of this ministry. You know who you are! I’ll end with a video by Jason Gray that has become an inspiration and a favorite of mine and a verse that I believe sums up my motivation and passion for this ministry. So again, welcome! I’m excited for the adventure ahead and hope you’ll join me.
“We want to tell you about the One who was from the beginning. We have seen Him with our own eyes, heard Him with our own ears, and touched Him with our own hands. This One is the manifestation of the life-giving Voice,and He showed us real life, eternal life. We have seen it all, and we can’t keep what we witnessed quiet—we have to share it with you. We are inviting you to experience eternal life through the One who was with the Father and came down to us. What we saw and heard we pass on to you so that you, too, will be connected with us intimately and become family. Our family is united by our connection with the Father and His Son Jesus, the Anointed One; and we write all this because retelling this story fulfills our joy.” 1 John 1:1-4