Beloved

I read an excerpt by Henri Nouwen yesterday in a book entitled, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life. In it he wrote about Christ followers being “Beloved” by God. The text he used was Jesus being baptized and the voice of the Father stating that this was God’s beloved Son in whom God was very pleased. By extension, we who are adopted as God’s children, (John 1:12), are also “Beloved” by God. As I meditated on this I said, “Ok…so what?” In my mind’s eye I saw Abba taking me on His lap and embracing me. I imagined the Father and Son laughing and slapping me on the back to welcome me into the divine family. Yet, no joy. Granted, I have spent many years stuffing emotions. I promised myself that I would not allow myself to be hurt…again. But, this is Abba’s presence we’re talking about. Shouldn’t there be some emotional response?
One of Nouwen’s favorite pericopes is the story of the Prodigal from Luke 15. He likes to point out the unmerited favor that the father showered on his wayward son. Especially, since the son seemed to have rather self-serving motives for returning. In the story, however, I did not detect a great deal of joy and happiness from the son. Yes, one verse states that they began to celebrate. This could indicate that the son perked up. However, I’ve been to many celebrations and not felt especially festive.
So, considered what the reception and grace given to this wayward traveler could reveal about the others in the story, in particular the father. I saw that to the servants, the father was lavishly generous. Not only did the son get a huge welcome home party, but apparently, the servants were welcome, too. The father was conspicuously forgiving. This is one of the main themes of the story. The eldest son saw the father behaving ‘over-the-top,’ but could not see past his own concerns. The prodigal, himself, experienced acceptance in the face of expected rejection. In all of these, the father received some sort of ‘glory.’ Generous; forgiving; lavishly pouring out more than was warranted; accepting.
No, I don’t feel particularly warm and fuzzy about being “Beloved.” But, it’s really not about me, is it?

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