I’m in a place of wrestling with my identity and worth in this new city and new season. Yesterday, as I groped for anything to hold onto, anything to help me make sense of where I am and what God’s doing here, I picked up Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning again. Chapter three is titled simply “The Beloved.” Reading through it last night and again this morning, I feel like this is a piece of what God is producing in me in this season.
Manning talks about the difference between the imposter, the false self we manufacture to present to the world around us in hopes of being accepted, and the true self, the self that finds its identity and worth in Christ alone. He writes, “While the imposter draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life….We give glory to God simply by being ourselves” (Abba’s Child, p. 51-52).
He also shares a segment from the journal of John Eagan, a high school teacher and a contemplative, where Eagan talks about a visit with his spiritual director:
“Then he states something that I will ponder for years; he says it very deliberately. I ask him to repeat it so I can write it down. ‘John, the heart of it is this: to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.’
We discuss it. The basis of my personal worth is not my possessions, my talents, not esteem of others, reputation…not kudos of appreciation from parents and kids, not applause, and everyone telling you how important you are to the place…I stand anchored now in God before whom I stand naked, this God who tells me ‘You are my son, my beloved one.’” (p. 51).
This idea of belovedness apart from what I do or the people around me strikes at a lie deep in my heart. In my head I can protest, “Of course I know that I’m not defined by my possessions or my position….or my lack thereof” but in my heart I still ache for a position that lets me know that I’m significant, that I matter, that I belong. I still crave the praise and appreciation of others that lets me know that I’m needed, I’m wanted, I’m liked. And I still look at my possessions and my lifestyle to see if I look right, if I live right, so I fit in, so I can say I have a place here. This move to a new city has magnified all those insecurities and cravings to an enormous weight of wanting in my heart. This needs to be dealt with, not fed or covered up. This needs the lancing of God’s truth and the balm of His love. Manning insists that if I seek for life and meaning and identity anywhere else but in Him, “I am spiritually dead” (p. 52).
“God created us for union with Himself: This is the original purpose of our lives. And God is defined as love (1 John 4:16). Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence. It is not merely a lofty thought, an inspiring idea, or one name among many. It is the name by which God knows us and the way He relates to us” (Abba’s Child, p. 52).
I need to learn that I’m beloved, even apart from any ministry or position, any friendship or sense of belonging. I need to live out of the truth that I am beloved in my ordinary life. I’m beloved as I walk to work, as I bake muffins, as I take photos, as I sit with my husband, as I struggle to maintain patience, as I itch to get my hands dirty in the world of poverty, as I think wistfully of friends back home. Beloved in all these ordinary moments. Beloved right where I am. I need to know that I’m beloved, and that it’s enough. I need to learn to rest in that belovedness.
And as I grow in an awareness of my identity as one beloved by God, I am reminded of my call – the truest call in my life – to loved the great Lover Himself, to find my identity in that call to love and be loved in return and to live out of the truth that this is enough. I don’t need to strive to earn worth beyond this.
God was speaking this to me the other day through His Presence in the Midst of You, by Charles Elliot Newbold Jr., a collection of letters written as if God is speaking directly to the reader (based on scripture). In it I was reminded:
“The highest service anyone can render unto Me is to worship Me in spirit and truth. I created you for this reason. Men lose their way with Me when they think they have to achieve great works in My name.
I do not want your works. I want you. I want your love, your passion, your desire to be in My presence and for My presence to abide in you.
They who wait upon Me to be refreshed by Me will be My lights in the world. The world will see the sacrifices you make to worship and praise Me, and, through such sacrifices of self, I will draw others to Me.
Your praise of Me is the greatest testimony you can give in the world. It is your message. Your life of praise is your works. It is your sacrifice of self – laying aside your agendas, your plans, and your programs to allow Me to be all in all.” (p. 4).
I pray that, in this season in particular, God will work these essential truths deep into my heart and life. They changed my life at one time. At one time this idea, that the most important thing I could do for God is to spend time with Him, was so radical that all I could do was sit in the middle of my floor and ponder how this changed everything. It meant a complete change in direction. But that was over three years ago. In the onslaught of passions and desires, plans and callings, that followed that revelation, the central truth of it dulled. Perhaps this season is a cal to sit in the middle of the floor again and let that enormous truth sink into my spirit and life and chang me once again.