Beloved Mess

Sometimes I find it hard. Sometimes I struggle to accept God’s life-giving word of love and welcome. Truth be told, I struggle to accept the notion of my own belovedness most of the time.

There’s a personal dimension to this struggle to accept that I am beloved of God. But I am daily more convinced that the rise of shame and self-hatred is one of Western culture’s deepest ills.

I was reminded last week of the story of someone who, at a gathering with the Dalai Lama, asked him,

“What do you think of self-hatred?”

The whole meeting ground to a halt as the Dalai Lama spoke back and forth with his translator, trying to decipher the meaning of these words.

“What,” he asked, “is self-hatred? I find this concept very strange.”

Shame and indeed self-hatred, Brené Brown tells us in her book, Daring Greatly, bubbles up equally in self-deprecation and narcissism. Each is the flip of the same shameful coin. Each is a way of responding to our deepest shame.

The reality is that each and every day I am delivered messages of inadequacy: I will never be strong enough, important enough, handsome enough, cool enough.

I will never be worthy of love or fulfilment unless, of course, I buy the object/answer/ideology you’re selling me.

It’s damn near impossible to withstand the barrage. I know in a deep and personal way that it is nothing I can withstand on my own.

What I need, what I so desperately need, is membership in a community of people who are paying attention to the God who created and called all things good, and are learning to accept that. What I need more than anything is to be part of a Christ-centered community that will, with God, take me as I am, and at the same time summon out what I shall be.

When left to my own devices, I find myself alternating between feelings of complete worthlessness, and projections of my own superiority. But belovedness is about neither. Accepting belovedness is vulnerable, and it challenges our complexes – be they superior or inferior.

If, in this individualistic North American culture of death, more of us came to grips with our belovedness of God, the corporate powers and political pretenders would be brought to their knees.

Don’t tell me the gospel isn’t revolutionary. In a world that tells some they’re the only ones of value, and others they’re worth less than nothing, ENOUGH is pure treason.

Belovedness is about being enough. Not greater than, not less than, but enough.

But it wasn’t until recently that this realisation came to me. Even so I struggle to believe it to be real. I am only beginning to understand the way in which vocation and a wholehearted embrace of my own belovedness are locked in step with one another.

When it comes to putting the two together, I’m just learning how to crawl.

I started to reflect on these things the other week on Facebook (the disembodied enemy of belovedness itself). As I did so, I caught a typo that I eventually decided was truer than what I had originally intended to write:

Vocation is where we acknowledge our belovedmess and help point to, or reveal, that same belovedness in others.

It reminded me that before any of us discovered our own failings or contradictions, we were God’s beloved. We are God’s beloved to this day. 

Which is to say:

God does not love you in spite of who you are. God loves you in who you are. All of you.

God has created you good and without shame.

Yes you. All of you.

God has created you in self-giving love.

Yes you. All of you.

You are God’s beloved. How you are. Who you are. As you are.

And God is already in the process of summoning you, and your beloved gifts for the sake of your own life, the life of your community, the church, and the life of the world.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

Andrew serves on staff at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC as Director of Ministry Innovation, with primary responsibility for St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.
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