Let's begin Beloved

Jul 8 / Terri Conlin
Those first tender moments of waking up are fragile and revealing. There's an art to where we begin our story, our relationships, our day.

Awakening is not a moment to rush by. When my kids were young, I woke up running. Literally, a morning run was the first thing I did. I raced to be up before four little bodies stirred. After a short run, I brewed coffee, read Scripture, and shot an arrow prayer with a fervent zing.

It was what I needed before the day came rushing in. As my children grew, I found a gentler pace of waking followed by a run. Even before I swept sleep from my eyes, I felt I was already behind, a deficit, an undercurrent of striving for God's goodness or delight. Some days, it was simply the voice of shame that got there first. As I discovered contemplative practices such as Examen or Centering Prayer, I still began from a harried place on the inside.

When author Tish Harrison Warren was looking for a new way to begin her day before email and to-do's, she started making her bed and sitting on a smoothed rectangle in silence without her phone.

Before we begin the liturgies of our day – the cooking, sitting in traffic, emailing, accomplishing, working, resting - we begin beloved.
 (Harrison, 2016, p. 20)

Begin Beloved. I was seeking that sense of peace in my habits. But it's too easy to equate practices with what makes us Beloved. I longed to go back further and down deeper.

As Jesus rose through the surface of the Jordan, God exclaimed, "This is my Beloved son in whom I am well-pleased." I am comforted by God's love alighting on him before a single day of public ministry. But did Jesus' Belovedness begin there?

My Dad used to describe the time before I was born as "back when you were just a twinkle in my eye." That suggested how long ago he loved me. I was in his arms before I was in his arms. That resonates with Jesus' words to his Father, You loved me before the world's creation.

In Genesis, God speaks from the Beloved Community, "Let us make man in our image," and declares everything very good. We were birthed out of Belovedness and remained so despite being wounded or pulling away. God delighted in walking with us in a flourishing garden with nothing between us. He still does. We began naked, unashamed, Beloved - our true beginning, a relationship more than a place to return to again and again. 

Henri Nouwen describes our Belovedness this way,

Long before any human being saw us, we were seen by God's loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.
 (Nouwen, 1992, pp. 48-49)

Being Beloved goes back further, down deeper, and out farther than we imagine. Our Belovedness is given.

So, what interrupts us from remembering our Belovedness? Striving, shame, our inner and outer critics, lies we believe, betrayals and rejections of all kinds, fears of abandonment, and feeling too much or not enough, to name a few culprits. 

Nouwen says we must reclaim our takenness, "We can desire to become the Beloved only when we know that we are already the Beloved."
 (Nouwen, 1992, p. 43)

Knowing is more than mental ascent. The Trinity invites us to experience our original Belovedness through our body, mind, soul, and strength, to let already-present Love work itself deeper into us than we have yet allowed. The paradox of being beloved is our brokenness, which came after Belovedness, will not be overlooked or discarded in a way we might prefer. We cannot turn away from our wounds and be healed. As we keep ourselves attuned to the voice of the Beloved, our brokenness can be lovingly worked into our Belovedness.

Nouwen claims our full humanity includes two vital responses to our brokenness: placing our brokenness under the light of God's blessing and befriending it. He suggests we tend to live our brokenness under the curse, which is not from God but lies we have loved.

The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing.
 (Nouwen, 1992, p. 79)

God's blessing will not be earned. It is given as a slumbering miracle, a latent Christ.
 (Kelly, 1966, p. 105)

Beginning Beloved and returning as often as needed is slowly changing how I awake everywhere, how I talk and listen to others, God, and myself, encounter Jesus as we walk together, take criticism, view my enemies, and welcome the Spirit moving through broken me into a wounded world. 

May we begin Beloved because we already are. And keep living so, for the Eternal Life and Love are not pocketed in us; they are flooded through us into the world.
 (Kelly, 1966, p. 26)

Works Cited
Harrison, T. W. (2016). Liturgy of the Ordinary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Kelly, T. (1966). The Eternal Promise. New York City: Harper and Row.
Nouwen, H. J. (1992). Life of the Beloved. New York: Crossroad Publishing.
Terri Conlin
Is a writer, spiritual director, creative space-maker, and occasional preacher. Terri has a BA in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and a MA in Spiritual Formation with an emphasis on Spiritual Direction from Portland Seminary. Additionally, she is a Certified Spiritual Director, also from Portland Seminary.

Terri has always been fascinated with design and the spaces that shape us. First, she explored space in physical spaces: textures, light, and materials like wood, stone, glass, and garden. Then, she was drawn to the spiritual spaces within and between us and our Artist God. In bringing the two together, we can discover delightful possibilities for the shapes of our souls.

Terro is a homebody who enjoys scenic hiking, reading, design, poetry, and writing while sipping dark roast coffee in a thrifted mug. A bunch of handpicked wildflowers in a mason jar or ironstone pitcher make her smile.