Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

God Chooses to Adopt You

Derek and Kristen remember the moment God confirmed their call to adopt internationally. After weeks of questioning, the title of the sermon that fateful Sunday morning read, “God Adopts Us into His Family.” Seven months later, after countless prayers, fundraising, and mountains of paperwork, they received confirmation that two beautiful children awaited them in Uganda. Let me introduce you to Viola and Gideon.


The journey had just begun. It would take nearly all of their emotional, mental, and financial resources, plus 73 days in Uganda attending court hearings and completing more paperwork before Derek and Kristen could bring their children home. Despite all it took, Kristen has said, “I love that adoption is the way I became a mother.” It has been nearly two years and Viola and Gideon are happy, healthy, and secure in their forever home. They have a new sense of belonging and they have received new identities.


God uses the imagery of adoption to help us understand the relationship He offers and desires to have with us.

In Romans 8:15-17 the apostle Paul says, “You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, ‘Abba! Father!’ as we would address a loving daddy. Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His.”

Just like Derek and Kristen chose Gideon and Viola, GOD CHOSE YOU. Derek and Kristen went to great lengths to adopt. God has gone to even greater lengths – sacrificing the son He already had in order to make us His children too. Just like Viola and Gideon could do nothing to earn or deserve their parents’ love, we can do nothing to earn God’s love and we certainly do not deserve His grace. Just like Gideon and Viola received new identities, we receive new identities in Christ. And even though Viola and Gideon are adopted, they have the same rights as a biological child. Similarly, as God’s adopted beloved children, we receive the same inheritance as Christ.

God chose to adopt us! Our worth is found in our true identity as God’s beloved children! But like Viola and Gideon were once orphans, before we accept God’s grace and love, we are spiritual orphans. If you have ever been to an orphanage, you may have noticed that after the initial shyness has worn off, the children tend to compete with one another for whatever you have to offer. As spiritual orphans, we tend to do the same thing. In fact, Henri Nouwen says that we try to earn worth through what we do, what we have, or what others say about us.

Listen, true worth is only found in receiving our identity as God’s beloved. Look at 1 John 3:1-2, which 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. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now.”

Beloved means “dearly loved or favorite.” You are God’s favorite! So, my question is this: Are you living as a beloved child of God or are you still living with orphan mentality?


An orphan is hopeless. A daughter is hopeful. An orphan is unsure and anxious. A son is assured and confident. An orphan simply survives. A daughter thrives. An orphan competes. A son is content. An orphan has no father to provide a name and therefore creates his own identity from the outside and hopes no one finds out what is on the inside. A daughter receives her name from her daddy and confidently shares what’s inside with others.

The only source of identity and worth that truly satisfies is receiving our adoption into God’s family as His beloved child. The action step is actually not what we need to do, but what we need to stop doing. Stop trying to earn God’s love. Stop looking for worth or identity in what you do, what you have or what others say about you. Viola and Gideon are no longer nameless. They are now Viola and Gideon Kimball. Live confidently out of the name your Heavenly father has given you, the name Beloved.


You are Beloved


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?