As He says also in Hosea,
“I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’
AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.’”
Romans 9:25 NASB, 1977
What a funny word, “beloved”? The loved one. The object of love. The world, if you will, according to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…”. The gift of His Son, which we celebrate every Christmas, is full of many of the most wonderful things in this life: redemption, reconciliation, peace, love and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I came to a living relationship with Jesus Christ almost 40 years ago, and I came to Him in search of truth. A solid foundation was laid in my catholic upbringing, but there was no life in the structure. In my quest for truth, I embraced Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but through Me.” Knowing the truth gave me new life and a purpose. However, it wasn’t until decades later that I truly understood what it meant to be “Beloved”.
I grew up in a household that wasn’t too keen on love and kindness. That’s just the way it was. And I know I was damaged by that upbringing.
When my older kids were little and there wasn’t a lot of money, we would buy our computers at the thrift store. Often times, they would work, but inevitably, while connecting to the internet we would meet that frustrating alert:
After working hard to get online, we would be deflated when we got this message. Well, that is how things were growing up. When it came to giving or receiving love, “this connection has limited or no connectivity.” So my siblings and I grew up with some emotional malnutrition, and were subsequently pretty emotionally anemic. I also had limited or no connectivity to love or being able to love. But when I had children, that maternal instinct gave rise to love, and those little ones, in their innocent little ways, gave me glimpses of a divine love I would soon connect to. I see that unconditional love in my grandbabies’ faces.
To quote from a previous blog, the first rays of “belovedness” came this way:
One night, seven years ago, my little girls and I were randomly quoting Scripture – something we never do – but it was fun. They had memory verses from school. Ellie quoted Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.” I had heard this verse before, but this evening it stuck and I reread the entire verse.
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Zephaniah 3:17 – NLT
And what I could only call a moment of grace I could see God Himself singing over me in love in the same manner I express my love toward my kids. I could understand that from being a mom, and even better, I could feel it. It was an overwhelming moment.
One night, there was an argument going on at the house, and I went upstairs to help broker a peace, but only created a greater skirmish. I went downstairs feeling like I had always felt: crappy, worthless and unable, as a Christian, to make things right, better or even bring peace.
As I stood in the hallway, I had an epiphany. I came to the understanding that a lot of our family’s emotional dynamics were shame-related. A family member, unable to take responsibility for their actions, perhaps from their own pain no doubt, had, for years, shifted their shame and guilt to other family members including myself. I can’t tell you how earth shattering this illumination was. It was like that apron the dentist puts on you, the leaden one for x-rays, and that God took this leaden apron of shame off of me, and I floated to the surface and breathed the fresh air of freedom and non-condemnation.
At the same moment, almost audibly, I could hear Paul’s glorious and resounding ruling from Romans: “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those is Christ Jesus.” I had been a Christian for thirty years, and that night I felt like a new Christian, I had been born again again, the decades seemed to fall away, and I was basking in the love and acceptance of the Heavenly Father.
Since then I have grown in His love. I have learned to trust Him, not so much in obedience to His word, but in response to His love for me. That revelation revolutionized my Christian life.
I didn’t mean to go so long as to get to the point, but Christmas brings the best gifts when we look closely at the origin of the holiday. Christianity is set apart from all the religions in that there is a God who loves, a God who loves us, and all others. He loves His creation, though fallen, and Jesus Christ is God’s gift of love to us, to the world. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection fixes our “limited connectivity” and strongly reconnects us to our God. We are reconciled to God the Father, justified in Christ and where we were once not loved, we are BELOVED.
And when we know we are BELOVED, we can love, and even love in the most difficult circumstances because it is true what John wrote, “We love, because He first loved us.” I hope this Christmas the love of God will make you know and feel BELOVED.
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!