I have been praying about this talk for a few weeks now and reflecting on what I think the Lord would want you all to gain from this time. And every time that I sat down to pray, the Lord kept bringing up the word “beloved.” So, since he was placing that on my heart, that’s what we’ll be talking about this evening: our belovedness – more so embracing our identity as the beloved of God.
Also, the Lord kind of has an interesting sense of humor. Anyone at HNJ will tell you that I have said so many times that I always preach to myself when I give a homily or when I give a retreat talk and that is certainly the case here tonight. I think the Lord was placing the word beloved on my heart because it’s something that I, myself, also need to be reminded of.
I want to start by giving us a couple of scripture passages to pray with as a way of getting us into recognizing our belovedness.
Mark 1:9-11 – The Baptism of the Lord
“It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”
1 John 3:1-2 – Children of God
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
As Christians, there is one thing that really makes us unique – the Sacrament of Baptism. We know that when we are baptized, we are being claimed by Christ, we’re being freed from the power of original sin, and being brought into the life of the Church. But the sacrament is also a reminder for us about how we were created – it’s a reminder that we are created in the image and likeness of God, that we bear His imprint on our hearts and souls. And there is this longing within us that was placed on our hearts by the Lord at the moment we were created, a longing that draws us into deeper relationship with the Father.
When we are baptized, we become the adopted children of God. Just as the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in His baptism, so, too, does the Spirit come down upon us at our own baptisms. In that moment, the Father claims us as His beloved – as His sons and daughters. For us, too, a voice comes down from Heaven declaring “You are my beloved son” or “You are my beloved daughter.” There are two important questions that we have to ask ourselves surrounding that. First, do we believe that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters? And, second, do we live out of that identity?
If we’re completely honest with ourselves, there are times when we don’t believe that we are God’s beloved children and when we recognize that we struggle to live out of that identity. We look at our lives and we see our sins, we see our mistakes, we see our failings, we see our shortcomings. We think: “There’s no way the God could ever love someone like me because of the things that I’ve done.” Or we see all of the bad things that have happened in our lives, we see the things of our past and we let them define us; we let them define our present and we let them define our future.
Each of us has had to face our fair share of challenges. For some that might be the death of a spouse or the loss of a child. Maybe its struggles with infertility, challenges with balancing work with family life, difficulties in finding our place in the world. Maybe it cuts a lot deeper – wounds from childhood, being neglected or abandoned by a loved one, dealing with ongoing effects of sexual or emotional abuse, or struggling to overcome depression, anxiety, self-image, or other mental health challenges.
So many times, we can allow the negative or difficult things that we have experienced to determine our sense of worth and we begin to own things that we were never meant to own. What might some of those things sound like?
- Those struggling with fertility might start to say: “There must be something wrong with me; God must not want me to be a mother. Maybe I’m not capable of being a mom.”
- Anyone who is seeking to overcome the trauma of sexual abuse might be thinking: “If only I wouldn’t have put myself in that situation, I wouldn’t have been assaulted. It’s my fault. I should have known better.”
- Those suffering from depression or anxiety might believe: “I’m so messed up. I’m so broken. I’m never going to make it through this.”
- Those who have been abandoned or neglected might think: “There must be something wrong with me. Why does everyone always leave? Why does no one love me?”
- If we’re struggling to overcome sin, we might believe: “I have done so many things that are unforgiveable. I’m a lost cause. I’m never going to change. God can never love me.”
So often these and other negative thoughts like them fill our hearts and our minds. It can be hard to accept God’s love for us because we buy into the idea that our experiences or our sins are what define us. Let’s recognize those things for what they are! Do we really think that God loves everyone but us?! Y’all, that is a lie placed on our hearts from the Evil One himself and he uses that to bring us to a place of despair, to a place of discouragement. He uses that to keep us stuck in the darkness.
Our worth, our value, our identity is not determined by what we have done or the mistakes we’ve made. Satan knows our names, but calls us by our sin. Instead, we need to remind ourselves of the Truth. We need to remind ourselves that God acts in the total opposite way – He knows our sin, He knows the things we struggle with, but He instead calls us by our name. He calls us His beloved.
God loves us so immensely that He sent His Son into the world, embracing our human nature in order to teach us how to live our lives in accordance with the will of the Father. Jesus came into the world to bear the weight of our sin, to take on our suffering, uniting Himself to the suffering that we experience so that He could redeem us. He endured the pain of the cross in order to make it possible for us to one day return to full communion with God.
It is through Jesus that we become children of the Father and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Ladies, each of you is a princess; you’re a daughter of the King. All you have to do is claim that title because that’s your true identity. It’s time to own our belovedness.
How can we do that? It starts by asking God for the grace of coming to personal knowledge of what our true identity is. He has to reveal it to us. But in order to be receptive to that, we have to be able to hear His voice and respond to it – we have to have a relationship with Him.
We have to get to know Him; we have to believe who He is; and, we have to give Him permission to draw us closer toward Him in love. The Lord is a gentleman and He never pushes us to do anything we’re not ready to do. So we have to invite Him into our hearts.
He wants us to dive more deeply into Scripture to come to a better understanding of who His Son is: reading about the things He did for others, the love He showed them, the miracles He performed, the things He taught His disciples, the freedom He brought to people’s lives. It means talking to Him on a regular basis, deliberately choosing to spend time with Him in prayer – just going to Church on Sundays is simply not enough. We have to talk to Him, share with Him what’s on our hearts, open up about our fears, our worries, our struggles, our joys, our triumphs. For us Catholics, it means taking part in the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist and Confession…as much and as often as we need it.
Our identity as God’s beloved comes from our relationship with the Father through the words of Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All of these things will help deepen that relationship. As that happens, the Lord will reveal to us more and more the lies that we believe about ourselves. He’ll lead us to begin recognizing the ways that we don’t own our belovedness.
When we don’t live out of that true identity, we begin to live out of our own desires and our own wants, thinking that we can do everything on our own. We risk forgetting who we truly are, we risk forgetting that it was God who created us and shaped us. We risk falling into the trap of believing in lies that the Evil One tells us about ourselves.
I’m positive many of us in this room are aware of the some of the negative things we tell ourselves. If you are aware of them, bring them to the Lord and ask for healing. If you aren’t aware, ask the Lord to reveal those things to you tonight. Ask Him to remind you of all the lies that you believe about yourself. Many times, those lies are attached to deep hurts – wounds that have been inflicted upon us by the actions of others or by decisions that we have made. So, during our evening of prayer in just a few short moments, ask the Lord to bring those things to the light. Ask for the courage to be able to renounce those lies and be led to a recognition of the truth of who you are. If there is forgiveness that needs to be offered, ask Jesus to help you begin that process. If there is forgiveness that needs to be sought, bring that to the Lord as well and ask for it.
Don’t be afraid. He is with you. You are safe, you are loved, you are being held. If you enter into this with an open heart, the Lord is going to bring you to a place of healing and wholeness. He is going to begin the process of restoring you more fully to the image that He originally intended for us. He will begin to lead you to a place where you accept and embrace your belovedness.
God wants us to experience who we truly are, He wants to lead us from slavery to sin into freedom; He wants to bring us to recognizing the truth of who we are over the lies that we believe about ourselves. He wants to remind us that we are completely loved and fully known. He wants to remind us that we are His, that He is walking alongside us in the midst of our struggles. He is reminding us that we are the most important people in His heart, that we are His sons and daughters and that He wants what’s best for us. When we embrace that Truth, it changes everything. It changes what motivates us; it changes how we act, the decisions we make. When we encounter God’s love in that way, we desire nothing more than to go out and share with others how our lives have been changed.
So tonight, as we reflect upon our identities as beloved daughters of God, as beloved sons of God, let’s pray with this question: what are the things in my life that are preventing me from embracing and living out of that identity and how is the Lord inviting me to go deeper with Him?
I want to close by going back to the song we sang to begin this talk. Mathias is going to lead us in singing the chorus. Let the words sink in. Listen to the words the Lord speaks to you tonight. “He says, ‘You’re mine, I smiled when I made you. I find you beautiful in every way. My love for you is fierce and unending. I’ll come to find you, whatever it takes, my beloved.”
“Belovedness” was a talk given at the Imago Dei Retreat put on by the Unraveled Podcast in June 2021. More information can be found at the Unraveled Podcast website.