“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.’” Matthew 22:36-40 Christian Standard Bible
The pop song “You Always Hurt the One You Love” has been recorded by an abundance of artists. Connie Francis recorded it in 1959 as a special 45 in response to the demand for her music in the UK where it made #13 on the singles chart. The most famous recording is the one by the Mills Brothers. It was recorded and released in 1944, and lasted 20 weeks on the best seller chart where it peaked at #1.
The lyrics are quite illuminating in revealing the human condition as we experience the pursuit of love.
“You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall”
“You always break the kindest heart
With a hasty word you can’t recall
So if broke your heart last night
It’s because I love you most of all”
Most of us have either heard these words spoken in context to relationships of people we know, or of relationships we are in ourselves. So, for me the obvious question is, why? I recognize it’s those we love who will be extremely impacted by what we say, what we do, what we think, and especially how we view ourselves! Because (here is where the reality of Jesus words zero in on our lives) it is not possible to truly love another person if we are not able to love ourselves.
This Biblical principle directly relates to our ability to love anyone we come into contact with, including family, friends, and enemies! I understand that last one is the deal breaker for many, and honestly it can only be achieved through surrender to the Holy Spirit. The only way we will truly be able to value anyone is as we accept the words of Jesus concerning the deep reality of valuing/loving ourselves. It is my belief much of the conflict experienced in life comes from the lack of love received in our lives.
“If it is true we not only are the Beloved, but also have to become the Beloved; if it is true that we not only are the children of God, but have to become children of God; if it is true that we not only are brothers and sisters, but also have to become brothers and sisters…if all that is true, how then can we get a grip on this process of becoming? If the spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming, what then is this nature of becoming?” (The Life of the Beloved” Henri Nouwen, pp.44-45)
So here is the question which has dogged Christianity for centuries, the how of the process of the Christian experience! There are libraries full of books and there are authors galore, all addressing the process of how to become. But, become what? This is the next question that must be considered in this whole discussion of being the Beloved.
It is a reality we have missed for far too long causing us to miss opportunities to present the gospel as it was always meant to be presented, a message of hope detailing the love of God that declares He chose to die rather than live without us! It is the message that God sees us as the Beloved, He doesn’t see us as we are in our rebellion any more than we spend our time looking at our children through the lens of all they have done wrong! When we consider our children we think of them with parental pride, we speak of them with tones of love and pleasure. We want all to know just how wonderful they are, what amazing children God has blessed us with!
How do our children achieve this amazing transformation from child to teenager to the spectacular adult? Consider your “Terrible” two year-old stomping around demanding that they have their own way, pulling their hand out of yours at the most precarious of moments. There were days we despaired they or we would ever survive them becoming adults! Yet those of us whose children are adults know the reality of their accomplishment, their process of becoming adults has been fulfilled, and I for one am extremely proud of my girls! So how did they become such great adults? It was the goal we placed before them and did our best to mentor for them. They knew what they were to be and become.
Now what would happen if we began to understand that the process God has for us to be and become the Beloved is the same as becoming adults? Sound too radical? Why? Jesus told us there was nothing we were to worry over or about, that the Father knows our every need, every need! And what greater need do we have than to believe the truth that we are the Beloved and we are becoming the Beloved, especially as it impacts our ability to actually love!
“Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do. It entails a long and painful process of appropriation or, better, incarnation. As long as “being the Beloved” is little more than a beautiful thought or a lofty idea that hangs above my life to keep me from becoming depressed, nothing really changes.” (ibid pg.45)
When Nouwen tells us it is a painful process, it might be a surprising insight; yet anything which seeks to counteract decades of psychological programing is bound to cause distress as the lies of the enemy are replaced by the truth of the Creator. And it is critical this transition in thinking occurs as it impacts directly our ability to love!
As always, the good news is we don’t have to worry about this transformation taking place as our reality. Just as no child need worry about the natural process of becoming an adult, neither do we need worry about the natural process in Christ of Becoming the Beloved! It is a matter of once more asking and receiving that which God knows we need. There is no other way to be the Beloved and to enter the process of becoming the Beloved.
Here is more good news; God has already dispatched the Holy Spirit to accomplish all we need for life on this dysfunctional planet. All we need to do is accept it and believe it! It really is what John 3:16 is all about. We believe and we become; it can’t be much simpler than that! It’s not easy because we keep getting in the way, but that has never stopped God before and it won’t stop Him now!
Grace in Process is being the Beloved and becoming the Beloved, it is definitely good news!