As Jesus came up from the waters of baptism, God’s words of love spilled over Him. “This is my beloved son, whom I love; my favor rests upon him (Matthew 3:17).” Can you imagine how keenly heartening this was for Jesus? Can you see the Spirit’s peace and joy resting in Jesus’ countenance? Is this your experience of your belovedness?
If you are like me, belovedness can become just an idea believed.
While I was in college, seeing the rich-colored refraction of sunbeams streaming through the stained-glass windows of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris both silenced my reverent heart and quickened it to worship God. I was amazed by how something as common as glass could shine and dance with such brilliance and captivating beauty. But then, this was not common, clear glass. This glass, stained with color, was translucent. That is, its color gave it a substance that, while allowing light to pass through, also brilliantly refracted the light in colorful vibrancy.
Living into belovedness, amidst the color stains of life, is much more of a struggle. Henri Nouwen, in his must-read book Life of the Beloved, concludes that the sly persistence of self-rejection keeps the reality of our belovedness separated from our experience. Thus, we can believe the idea of being beloved by God and still wonder, If people really knew me, would they value and accept me? The voice of self-rejection echoes, I am not good enough; I’m worthless; I’m a shameful Navigator—unless I perform. When we minimize our value and identity as God’s beloved in self-rejection, we lose touch with ourselves and our story. We feel a growing insecurity in being increasingly see-through— even transparent—on the inside and so become increasingly opaque to a life lived in the light of belovedness.
Belovedness is, however, core to our identity, and without its tangible embrace, our souls wear thin in restlessness. We were made for it. In belovedness, God sees us, knows us, and welcomes us home as family—as His sons and daughters (1 John 3:1, Luke 15:20-24). Belovedness secures, steadies, and soothes. Belovedness also redemptively illumines, allowing us a growing freedom to engage ourselves and our stories with honesty and grace. When the color stains of our humanity and story are allowed to come into the light of our belovedness, we light up with beauty and brilliance like a stained-glass window.
Jesus’ life was color-stained with the real experiences of His humanity. Many of these spoke self-rejection to Him in hostility to His belovedness. He grew up a third-culture kid. His neighbors dismissed Him. His followers tried to manipulate Him to perform. His siblings taunted Him. His friends betrayed and abandoned Him. The powerful of His day cursed and crucified Him.
Still, in the midst of all the jeers and jerks, Jesus did not fall into self-rejection’s
trap. In authentic vulnerability, Jesus translucently brought
the colorful substance of His human
experience into the light of His belovedness.
Doing so both deepened
His grasp of His belovedness and
allowed the light of God’s favor and
love to refract brilliantly through the
vibrant colors of His humanity and
You too are God’s beloved. You too
have a color-stained life. Will you
live translucently? Will you allow
His love for you to redemptively
shine through the substance of your
human story so He may vibrantly
display His glory in the colors
of you? There is no one who can
display the light of belovedness like
you, because no one has the same
crazy combination of colors of who
you are, where you are from, and
what has been your story. In the
redemptive light of belovedness, the
authentic vulnerability of your person
and life are uniquely awe-inspiring
and far more vibrantly beautiful
than any stained-glass window.
Originally published in Upfront, Spring 2020. Volume 14, Issue 1