Friday, June 2, 2017

You Are Beloved of God: Yet Again

I have used the phrase “you are beloved of God” many times in my writings. (See blog post June 29, 2013). I have also used it frequently in spirituality retreats and classes. Henri Nouwen, one of the most widely read authors on spirituality in our time, is the one who introduced me to this simple, yet profound phrase. He has a series of eight videos on the subject that are well worth watching.

In spite of how much I have used this phrase, and how much it has meant to others, I need to be reminded of this time and time again. There are many voices within me that want to distract me from this truth; voices from the past that tell me that I am not worthy of God’s love for this or that reason. Voices that tell me that I am what I do, that I am what others say about me, that I am what I possess or that I am a composite of all the experiences I’ve had. Indeed, all of these distractions form a part of whom I am, but the core truth that “I am beloved of God” needs to be foremost.

Invariably, when I teach this phrase to others, they change the phrase to “you are beloved by God” when repeating it. But there is a clear distinction between the two prepositions. Being loved by God is a good phrase to repeat. However, when we say, “you are beloved of God,” the phrase becomes much more intimate. “Of” shows possession, and means that we are in a much more intimate relationship with God. God “owns” us, if you please. Being loved “by” God is more general while being loved “of” God is more personal.

If I encounter a person who is feeling low, I tell them that, “you are beloved of God.” You can literally see their eyes shine when they hear this phrase. Then I ask them to look at themselves in the mirror and state out loud, “You are beloved of God!” For some reason, it is extremely difficult for most people to do the mirror exercise. We are so used to seeing our ego and our outward appearance when we look in the mirror, that we forget that we also have a soul that needs to be groomed. It’s a great exercise, even if we are not feeling low.

Not only is it difficult for most of us to believe that we are beloved of God, but it is often more difficult to understand that others are beloved of God as well. That is especially true for those who are different from us. Can we think of the person who offends us politically or theologically as being beloved of God? How would such an exercise change our view of the person? With all the vitriol being spewed these days on all sides of any given issue, this simple exercise could help us remember that we are all created in God’s image and likeness.

I often stroll through the streets of the cities I visit, whether at home or abroad, and look at strangers in the eye while smiling and say to them silently, “You are beloved of God.” In the vast majority of these moments I am rewarded with a larger than normal return smile. We are all in need of the reminder that we are beloved of God.

Soli Dei gloria


  1. Don, I don't think your point could be more significant! I completely identify with the ongoing battle with voices that want to desperately grab our attention to question the assertion that we are beloved of God. I think this is a pivot point in our spirituality. We've been raised on a foundation of a doctrine of original sin, which has very, very destructive implications on our souls and spirit! In contrast, is the doctrine of original blessing! Again, this is what I think is the pivot point of our spirituality. I cannot overstate how this makes all the difference in our lives! Are we defined by our false self (aligned with the doctrine of original sin) or by our true self (aligned with the doctrine of original blessing)? I believe it was Julian of Norwich who made the point that we're not "simply" born from God, but we are of God...we are born of God!! That, I believe is the truth and again, to me, the centerpiece, upon which the Church has missed the mark in a very grave error!

    1. Thanks Hilel, for your affirming and encouraging words. Like your contrast between false self and true self, and the quote by Julian of Norwich. Blessings to you as you affirm the "beloved of God" truth to those around you.