Our readings for this week are readings of Love and of being Beloved. We start “in the beginning” with Adam and Eve. The Beloveds of God. We move on to where God claims Jesus as the Beloved Son. There are echoes of the older testament in the new and of the newer testament in the old.
Echoes of Love and Beloved.
These echoes resonate from the stories, from the pages, from the words, and the Words, from the breath, and into our current place in time. Adam is Beloved. Eve is Beloved. Jesus is Beloved. Everyone in between is Beloved. To us. We are Beloved. God is our Beloved.
That’s pretty special. That we are beloved of God. Even when we’re tempted. Even when we miss the mark. Even when we get lost. Even when we’re really, really lost.
Even when we’re mean and furious. Even when we’re hurting and we lash out. Even when we’re afraid and we fight.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all been tempted and succumbed. We’ve all aimed well and still missed the mark. I’m sure we’ll continue to be tempted and succumb. I’m sure we’ll all forget to aim and really, really miss the mark.
And God Forgives us. PAUSE.
(Perhaps so we can keep trying). (Perhaps so we can learn to forgive ourselves).
God forgives us. Because we are Beloved. ALL of us.
God is our Beloved. Many traditions have begun to shift the Lord’s Prayer from “Our Father” to “Our Beloved” to remind us of these echoes of Love. We are Beloved. God is our Beloved.
This relationship is incredibly precious.
It can be hard to remember that we are Beloved. Especially when it’s (whatever “it” is) is “hard”. We too easily lean toward blame (often ourselves). Toward the idea that we are “unloved” or “unlovable”. That others have it better because they are more lovable and God loves them. God loves them more and we’re being punished…because we deserve it. Even if we can’t actually figure out why we think we deserve it.
We like, and perhaps we need, to explain things. It’s easy to assume we’re bad, not worthy, unlovable. It’s harder to believe we are precious, worthy of love, and good.
If we truly believe we are Beloved, then our faith becomes stronger. We trust the Beloved. We reframe the story from: it’s hopeless and I deserve this to something bigger. We don’t continue to punish ourselves in the midst of what is already hard. We like easy answers to “why is this happening to me?” And feeling like we’re being punished makes easy sense. But it’s not true.
We’re likely to learn and grow. Spring represents this season of learning and growing. Becoming. Spring before the fullness, the fruition, of Summer. We have our Winters. We have our Springs. We have our Summers. We have our Falls.
This time is a good time to ponder. Things go awry. Things seem to go in the wrong direction. We are asked things of us that we’d really rather not be asked. But things happen and things go awry. It’s not personal. Or if it is personal, there’s a bigger Story, a bigger Mystery than I’m unlovable and deserve punishment. Perhaps, it is just part of the Isness.
I’m going to share a story. This is from Rabbi Brian after the unexpected loss of a dear friend:
I learn that when people can’t make sense of the world with the God beliefs they have, they come to a crisis of faith.
I learn this in my training to become a rabbi.
There are always two options:
(1) Pretend we are fine with what we know doesn’t make sense.
(2) Struggle through the discomfort and grow into new beliefs.
I couldn’t make sense of Shauna’s death with the theology I had.
How could she have had an undiagnosed, under-productive spleen, which would quickly catalyze pneumonia into a quick death?
Where was God? How could God have allowed this?
I struggle through the discomfort until a new belief arises—God was upset about this too. God is crying along with me, exclaiming as I do, “How could this have happened?”
Perhaps God—as inadvertently as I went to put the milk in the cupboard instead of the fridge this morning— just let this one slip and perhaps God needs my grace and forgiveness too.
(Highlight is mine). This story really hit me hard. Why do bad things happen? Why to good people? Why? Why? Why? And you don’t have to believe this story as Rabbi Brian does, but just ponder it with me for a moment.
If we are the beloved and God is the Beloved. If God forgives us. Then perhaps, we can be a little bit kinder toward God as well. We can maybe not blame God. Maybe we can bring a little gentleness to God…even in our pain. Maybe we can remember that God is our Beloved as well. Maybe God needs a little more Love from us. And regardless…it can’t hurt to bring more gentleness and love in, even to God.
Things happen and things go awry. We will never fully understand. But we know. It’s why each week we pray for bread, because we know sometimes we will want. It’s why each week, we pray to be forgiven of our debts, because we know sometimes we will overextend ourselves and make mistakes. It’s why each week we ask to be led away from temptation, because we know we’ll be tempted.
These human truths don’t make us any less loved or worthy of love. And if we internalize that some people are more worthy of love and others are less worthy of love…what kind of world are we creating? What kind of world are we continuing to create? PAUSE.
Things going awry, or even very badly, are part of the Journey of being living beings. We are still loved. We are still forgiven. We are still held. We are still blessed. Even when it doesn’t feel like it…
Because we are beloved of the Beloved. PAUSE.
Echoes in the old testament. Echoes in the new testament. Being loved through all trials and tests and temptations. No one is “not good enough” in the eyes of God. We’re only “not good enough” in the eyes of other human beings.
If we are beloved of the Beloved, perhaps we are so filled with love that we can practice seeing others as beloved as well. Beloved of God.
We can love those who are close to us just a little bit more.
We can echo the belove-ing in our marriages and families and with our children.
We can echo the love in our friendships.
We can echo the love in our acquaintances and with our co-workers.
We can echo love in the strangers we meet each day.
We can echo love to those who ask something of us.…those in need.
We can echo love to those we dislike; those we find it hard to believe are also beloved.
If we are beloved through all of the history of the stories and books into now and beyond, after all we’ve done and do…we are still beloved. Maybe we can practice loving in our own lives. And if we can’t love someone, perhaps we can remind ourselves that someone loves them, even if we don’t. And we can certainly remember that God’s Love is so big that they are still beloved by God.
In this season of Lent, we can practice almsgiving. The almsgiving of loving.