Beloved and Broken

We are broken. It’s a fact. Each one of us. And our brokenness takes many forms, from grieving and betrayal, from health issues to hurting someone else, from anger to loss, shame, guilt and isolation.

We don’t like being broken… we don’t like how it feels, we don’t like to talk about it or admit it, and we love to pretend it isn’t so. In fact, many of us are so good at putting on a happy face that others would never know just how broken we really are.

Broken… there is a judgment to the word broken, especially when we apply it to our own lives. It suggests there is something wrong with us, that we are no longer in once piece. We are no longer whole. We are cracked, we have scars (if not open wounds).

We can approach our brokenness in one of two ways, either negatively or from the viewpoint of the Beloved. When we look at our brokenness negatively, we almost take on a victim mentality. We feel that we’ve failed, we weren’t good enough, maybe we believe that God is punishing us, or that God couldn’t possibly love us because we are too broken. Perhaps we even believe that whatever has happened just proves what a miserable person we are. We all know people who live in this mind frame and never get better. I know that many, or all, of these thoughts may go through our heads when we are suffering, but it is best to let these thoughts go and try to see your situation from a different perspective.

When we understand ourselves as the Beloved of God we are able to look at our brokenness in a completely different way, a way that sheds light, hope and kindness upon us. We can say to ourselves, “Yes, I am broken, but I am still the Beloved of God and my life is still a blessing, even though I may not feel like it at this moment. God has not done this to me, this is part of the journey of life (albeit not a fun part). And because I know I am Beloved and Blessed, I can trust that the Infinite Love Energy of the Universe will help me to heal and, even more important, to grow from this experience.

Our brokenness, when placed under the care of our Blessedness and Belovedness has the potential to change us into more loving, compassionate, caring, kind people. But before we can do this, theologian and priest, Henri Nouwen, in Life of the Beloved, says we need to befriend our brokenness. Accept it. Name it, claim it and work through it. Don’t hide it, deny it or bury it. The first step toward healing the pain is to walk through it, not away from it.

“The life of the Beloved means that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be a part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity.” (Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, 77)

Beloved and Blessed

Okay… I admit to having a few pet peeves. One of them is when I hear something like this: “I am so blessed that I didn’t end up in that horrible accident on the highway this morning!” Could you just tell me what that says about the person who was caught in the accident? God doesn’t love them? God is cursing them for something they’ve done? I know we often don’t think about it that way, but we should.

You see, that type of thinking is clearly Old Testament thinking. If God loves you, God will favor you. If God is angry at you or you aren’t one of the Chosen People, then God will wreak havoc on your life. To me that completely contradicts the God who calls us Beloved and has Chosen each of us, affirming our specialness and excluding no one.

So, the bottom line is that we are each the Beloved of God, we are each Chosen, and we are all at our very core blessed. We are not the inherently sinful beings that much of conservative Christianity would have us believe. We are beautiful and unique pieces of divinity. Accepting all this and living out of it… well, that’s another thing entirely.

Let’s talk about being blessed for a moment. Certainly when we walk through life present and aware, we find God’s blessings everywhere. A robin, a smile, a song, a moment of quiet, an expression of kindness, almost anything when looked at with the right perspective can remind us of God’s presence in our lives.

Then there is something a little deeper and more intimate, a time of being blessed and a time of blessing others.  John O’Donohue in  his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, says “A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal, and strengthen…. To invoke a blessing is to call… wholeness upon a person now.” When we truly bless another we bring them back to their True Self, their core, their inherent goodness, their Belovedness. This can be really hard if we don’t truly feel beloved and blessed ourselves. Sometimes we can only give that which we’ve already received. When we can do it, we find that not only have we lifted up another, but we ourselves are lifted up.

I encourage you to move through life offering blessings, but I also encourage you to ask for one when you need it. This is even harder because we’ve been programmed to be strong, to take care of ourselves, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. But it shows great perception and willingness to trust if, when you find yourself feeling down, worthless, despairing, hollow and hopeless, to ask someone close to you to bless you. It is essentially asking, “Would you please help me find myself again? Because I feel like I’ve lost me. Please give me a blessing so that I might remember who I am.”

You are Beloved.

You are Chosen.

You are Blessed.


Beloved and Chosen

I always considered myself to be pretty athletic, and still I was never chosen first, nor probably in the top three, for any team when I was growing up. Of course, I was a girl, and I had glasses and I wasn’t the cutest thing around, so that was three strikes against me. I think that no matter how young or how old you are, it can sting a bit when you aren’t chosen.

Adding to last week’s conversation about being the Beloved of God, it is important to our spiritual journeys that we not only see that we are Beloved, but we are Chosen as well. I realize when we think of chosen, almost the first thing to come to mind is that someone is not chosen. However, as Henri Nouwen, in Life of the Beloved, says, “To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice.”

One Christmas I got each of my kids an ornament of a little boy or girl elf and each one said “Mom’s Favorite”. God works the same way, everyone is Chosen, everyone is God’s favorite! I think to our poor human minds this seems a little unfair. What if I behave better, and give more, and volunteer more and love better than someone else, shouldn’t I be loved more and wanted more by God? No. The God I know is not a biased, prejudiced, judgmental God whose favor and love we earn or lose by what we do. Otherwise the Divine would be no better than us!

Believing that we’re chosen and that we are special to God is just about as hard as believing we are the Beloved. Why? Perhaps because we don’t feel like we have anything special to offer, or we don’t feel worthy, or we’ve experienced rejection over and over again. Or maybe we don’t want to believe we are chosen because then we will be afraid we’ll have to do something. But there was never anything we had to do to earn our place as the Beloved and Chosen of God. They only thing for us to do is to BE ourselves.

It is important for our souls to claim our Belovedness and Chosenness in the face of a world that doesn’t believe it. Deep within ourselves, at our core, it is infinitely important to claim this.

In Arthur Miller’s play After the Fall (considered by some to be his most autobiographical work, he writes: I had the same dream each night – that I had a child, and even in the dream I saw that the child was my life; and it was an idiot, and I ran away. Until I thought, if I could kiss it… perhaps I could rest. And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible… but I kissed it. I think one must finally take one’s life in one’s arms.

We are all created in the Divine image.

We are all precious in God’s sight.

We are all God’s Beloved.

We are all Chosen.


Masking the Beloved

(I rarely do this, but the following is the actual manuscript of this sermon. It didn’t turn out quite exactly like this, but close enough. The audio is under the Resources tab is you are interested. And the picture of the mask is the one I wore while giving this message.)

I am the mask you wear.

You were born without me, but soon realized that if you were to live in this broken world, you would need me.

You didn’t always wear me at first, only when you were afraid… afraid someone wouldn’t love you as you were.

You put me on when you learned to be the Pleaser, not to step out of line, to do everything you could to keep everyone happy.

You put me on when you learned to be the Quiet One, so no one would laugh at you, no one would call you stupid, or tell you to shut up.

You put me on when you needed to hide your hurt, when you were told not to cry.

You put me on when you needed to be tough, so that everyone thought life didn’t bother you, when inside you were aching.

You put me on when you were afraid of not being good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough or talented enough for your parents, your teachers, your coaches, your friends.

Please Mask, you cried, don’t let them see my hurt, my doubts, my fear, my insecurity. Please Mask, don’t let them hear the cries of my soul. Let them think I’m strong, I don’t care, I’m tough. Please protect me so I don’t get hurt more.

And I did. But at a cost to you.

By the time you became a teen-ager you had all but forgotten that I was a mask, I had become so much a part of you.

It was easier this way. This way you didn’t have to touch the emotions that you had hidden. You didn’t have to feel the pain. You could believe that you were all the things you wanted the world to see.

What you don’t realize is that I am not really helping you anymore. Once you needed me to protect you because you were too young, too dependent. Now I have become a hindrance to you.

Oh no, you cry inside… I know you do, I hear all your thoughts, all your criesI need you! Without you I couldn’t be strong. Without you no one would love me. Without you, they would see the real me and they might not like it.

I know you are deathly afraid to take me off, not only because of what you think others might see, but because of what you, too, will have to face. I know the darkness you try to hide from yourself as well as the world. I know you don’t like to touch it. I know you use me as a shield, but in the end that does more harm than good, you must believe me.

You see, you were created beautiful and unique… your very soul a gift to the world. You ARE THE BELOVED OF GOD.

No, you say, Jesus was the “Beloved of God.”  It says so twice in the Bible… once at his baptism and once up on the mountain when he is transfigured.

Yes, Jesus was, but so are you. You are not just loved by God, you are THE BELOVED of GOD. That is the essence of your soul. When you put me on you began to forget… it was safer that way. What good did it do to be the BELOVED OF GOD if the world couldn’t see it? So you covered up your belovedness. You denied it to yourself and so it to the world.

I am the anger that shields your vulnerability.

I am the food that fills the empty place so you don’t need to touch it.

I am the laugh that hides your discomfort.

I am the criticism and bitterness that hides your brokenness.

I am the alcohol and drugs, work and sex, exercise and tv… everything that has become an obsession that keeps you from thinking, from going deeper.

I am the fear that keeps you safe, keeps you from risking again, being vulnerable again.

I am the “yes” you say so everyone will love you.

I am the wall you erect to keep yourself from loving too deeply and too completely.

I am the false humility and arrogance to hide your self-doubts.

I am the neediness that keeps others close and hides your fear of loss.

I am the happy face hiding all of your pain.

I am the aloofness keeping the world at arm’s length.

And I am so much more as well…

Please take me off. You cannot heal and be whole with me on.

There is nothing you can’t handle. You are the Beloved of God. Any pain you need to touch, any memory you need to walk through, any shame or betrayal or fear or grief… any of it must be better than not really living. And you are not really living when you hide that beautiful, unique soul you were born with.

Underneath all the layers of pain and self-doubt that you have acquired over the years, you will find your soul again. You will know that you are the Beloved. If you never take me off how will you ever really know that you are The Beloved? And how will the world experience your Belovedness?

I can tell you, and you can believe it in your mind, but until you rediscover your belovedness underneath all the baggage, you won’t really know it in your heart. And until you know it in your heart, it is hard to live as the Beloved.

When you live as the Beloved, you will find that your life will be transformed. You will be transfigured. You will glow with a new life force. You will live your life with a calm and peace and joy that you know at a depth greater than you thought possible. Your priorities will shift, things will matter less to you. Success, money, prestige will matter less to you. You will clearly see that so many of the things of the world have been designed for me, your mask, to keep me on.

And, you will relate differently to others because you will know that they, too, are the Beloved, but have covered it up and forgotten.

Taking me off is a process… you’ve been wearing me for many, many years now. We have become good friends…. good enough friends that I want what is best for you. I want you to be YOU. You, your true authentic self. You, the Beloved.

Don’t expect to get rid of me overnight, but find people and places where you are safe to take me off. See what it feels like. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Work through those feelings and experiences you thought you could never touch… you will find that touching them is not as bad as you thought. And not worth denying yourself your life for.

I won’t leave you without your permission, and I’ll always be there if you need me again. But I pray to outlive my usefulness. I pray that you are able to live your one wild, bold, beautiful life freely, unencumbered by me.

I see your truth… you are beautiful, courageous, creative, resourceful, kind, loving… I know you are the BELOVED. Know it for yourself.

Take me off.

Dancing (almost) naked

Occasionally I have more fun than is humanly reasonable in a worship service. Yesterday was one of those. Yes, it was our Mardi Gras service and the music was fun and the kids were great, but what threw me over the top was a woman that I’ll call Laverne (sharing publically in worship is one thing, and sharing publically on the internet is another, so I’ll go with a pseudonym for today). During our time of Joys and Concerns, Laverne shared her joy of music and how much it had lifted her spirits this last week when she’d blasted the sound track to Mama Mia on her stereo and danced around her living room in her underwear. For one brief moment I felt like the talk show host whose guest has just said something so extraordinary that they have no clue how to respond.

Thankfully, I recovered my poise and my wits enough to continue to draw on Laverne’s experience as an example of the spiritual path that is often denied, or at best eyed dubiously. You see, for centuries the Christian Church has denigrated anything “of the flesh.” “If it feels good it must be a sin,” has almost been a church mantra. Instead, the church has split off the body from the soul and decreed things of the spirit to be the true (or at least higher) path to the Divine.

Interestingly enough, I don’t believe Jesus saw it that way. In part of the scripture we discussed yesterday, Matthew 11:18-19, Jesus says, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He is possessed.’ The Chosen One comes, eating and drinking, and they say, ‘This one is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'” John the Baptist walked the ascetic (self-sacrificing, self-denigrating) spiritual path and Jesus lived more holistically – integrating body, mind and spirit. Jesus just appears to be frustrated that people can’t seem to get on board with either path.

I know we’re embarking on Lent this Wednesday, which automatically sends people into a more austere spiritual mode. Everyone starts asking, “What are you giving up for Lent?” If that’s what really brings you closer to God, then go for it. I myself haven’t had that experience. Perhaps Lent should just be about intentional spirituality. Chose a path, don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t just sit and pick apart everything you see, jump in and live into what is right for you. Take the more simplistic, ascetic route and give up coffee, or wine or meat on Fridays. Join a Lenten study, or a yoga class, meditate or read daily devotionals, or commit to going to worship all season. For me, I’ll probably invest in the Mama Mia soundtrack and start dancing. Thanks Laverne!

Blessings on your journey,