This one is for most of the people I’ve come across in the last few months.
For those who say “I could never do that”.
For the one afraid to try something new
Or not pursue a hobby
Or a dream
For fear of not getting it perfect,
Or “failing” entirely.
I was you. And still am sometimes to be perfectly honest.
There’s this quote that comes back to me time and again. A friend gave me a card with it on it just when I was ready to make a big change in my life. Anais Nin said “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
I’m sure you’ve felt it at one time or another - even when something seemed really scary you persisted. Remaining in the same state was more painful than the fear of moving forward.
But what if we could choose before that painful space to step forward. Not in an effort to avoid pain, but to move in confidence. What kind of confidence would that take? What would that look like?
As I reflected back on my own life I noticed there was one main thing that moved me into a space where fear wasn’t going to decide what I did and did not do. It was a slow process, as most things are. A seed was planted as I worked through the question of “Who is God” and “Who does God say I am?" (Thanks Trevor Hudson and “Discovering Your Spiritual Identity”) and these words from Desmond Tutu that I read over and over: “We don’t need to prove ourselves to God. We don’t have to do anything at all to be acceptable to him. Jesus came to say “hey, you don’t have to earn God’s love. It is not a matter for human achievement. You exist because God loves you already. You are a child of divine love.”
As I longed to understand more, a used beatup copy of Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” arrived in my mailbox.
With these two seemingly small seeds, I began to view myself as beloved. Beloved of God. I am God’s and God is mine. I began to rest in that overwhelming knowledge that no matter what, I was beloved. I was not defined or loved because of my job. I was not defined or loved because of what I had or could offer. I was not defined or loved because of who others said I was. Even if I had no job, no material things or someone said I was the worst human on the planet (cause if you're a parent of a teen, you get this one) - I was still beloved.
“First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: 'These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God's eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
As the core truth of being and becoming the beloved began to settle in my soul, I noticed some changes happening. When I would come to a place that I could feel God leading me into, but would mean I’d need to leave my current job that I was holding onto to define myself - I could repeat the truth that “I was beloved. I was not defined or loved because of my job.” (Sidenote: this didn’t happen overnight - it was a truth I needed to come back to over and over as layers peeled off.)
Over time I noticed I was more confident. I stepped into places I never thought I’d go - like seminary for spiritual direction training (because higher education when you’re older can be nerve-wracking). Like yoga instructor training (because having a little “extra” body and 40 years old can be intimidating). Speaking at retreats and conferences (because even if I could sing in front of a thousand people, speaking was terrifying).
Becoming the beloved not only gave me confidence, but it also allowed me to release the idea that I needed to continuously side-hustle or that my creativity was only good if it was useful or could be purchased. (There was also a lot of childhood beliefs associated with this one for me.) I loved to create things, but felt as though whatever I made needed to have a useful purpose or be sold so I could justify the time and cost of whatever it is I was interested in creating. As I become the beloved there is freedom in creating in the way that God has designed me to create. To write, to write poetry, to play with images in whatever form that looks like. And as I began to rest in the truth that I am beloved, it doesn’t matter what others say about me or what I create. Even in criticism I can rest in my belovedness.
This is just the beginning of my story. What's yours?
What would it look like for you to believe you are the beloved of God?
Say this out loud “I am not what I do, what I have, or who others say I am.” How does that feel?
How do you think that might change how you approach things you desire but fear to step into?