I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
“How you are is what I like. How you are is what I like. How you are is what I like. How you are is what I like.” These were the words my 3-year old nephew sang to his newborn sister, Lucy, to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
He made the words up himself.
Just a newborn, Lucy hasn’t done much to earn her brother’s favor. Yet, she has it. No social media followers. No bank account. No titles or trophies. Who then does Joseph see when he looks at his sister? How is she?
The priest and author Father Henri Nouwen explains that every Christian is beloved. “Listening to the voice (of the Beloved) with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say, ‘I have called you by name from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace’” (“Life of the Beloved,” p. 36).
Joseph, with dove eyes, sees his sister for who she is rather than who she isn’t. She is the beloved. He has not yet been exposed to the lies of the world. He gazes at his sister and sees her without confusion.
Father Nouwen identified five destructive lies of identity that people fall prey to:
- I am what I have. What we have can quickly be taken away. Theft, fire, natural disasters can in moments destroy what may have taken years to accumulate. We come into the world naked and won’t take anything with us in our graves.
- I am what I do. What “we do” can change. We may retire or be laid off. We don’t earn God’s favor.
- I am what other people say or think of me. What others think or say has no bearing on whether we enter the kingdom of God.
- I am nothing more than my worst moment.
- I am nothing less than my best moment. Moments whether good or bad are just events that will one day be forgotten. They do not define us.
The great spiritual battle the Christian faces is to reject these lies and reclaim the truth. It requires trust and faith and isn’t easy. Fasting and spending some time alone in prayer are two ways we can get back on track. This is how Jesus spent his 40 days in the desert. When the devil tempted him to deny his identity as the Son of God, Jesus was ready. With firm resolution, he told the devil to go away.
In a talk titled, “Who are we?” Father Nouwen points out that to live out our identities as the beloved one, we need to live a life in the Spirit as Jesus did.
There are four words that he used to summarize Jesus’ life that provide us with a framework to live in our identity as children of God:
- Chosen. We are chosen by God for a unique mission to be a witness to his love
- Blessed. As sons and daughters, we live under the blessing of the Father as Jesus did. His favor rests upon us.
- Broken. Jesus chose to allow his body to be broken for our salvation. He is broken in bread and shared. We too are broken. But Nouwen says accepting our brokenness allows us to put it under the blessing and allow God to use it for his greater glory.
- Given. Just as Jesus gave his life for us, we are called to give our lives to God to glorify him, to live out our call on earth as children of God, as his beloved.
I know with some sadness that Lucy will be tempted to believe she is someone she is not as she gets older. But I pray in those moments her brother’s sweet song will remind her who she is. How she is; the beloved one, a child of God.
“And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Copyright 2023, Kim Griffin