I was always an anxious kid. I was permanently attached to my mom’s leg whether we were at church, at school, or even the grocery store. I cried at my first piano recital and begged not to play. I finally relented and played anyway.
There was no end to what I was afraid of. I was afraid of the monsters in the closet, afraid of my teachers, afraid of the popular kids in school. I was afraid of myself, of being rejected, of being ridiculed, of not being enough. And as I realized much later, I was also afraid of God.
I learned early on about God’s love.
I sang, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” in Vacation Bible School. I memorized John 3:16 that, God so loved the world. I got a shiny gold star.
Yet I was scared of Him. Terrified, in fact.
I certainly didn’t feel like God loved me — that He was “in love” with me. I was afraid of missing God’s great plan for my life, scared of putting one toe over the line of His perfect will, terrified of the punishment — His punishment.
I lived with my terrible fear in silence. Exhausted from the energy I shed in trying to keep my steps perfectly straight, I simply put on a smile and pretended.
All the while, this fear continued growing in my belly. And no one knew. No one but God and me.
Somewhere on my journey, I stumbled upon a copy of the book The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. The Introduction set into motion a sacred demolition of everything I had believed about God. I wept. Something deep inside was giving way and I could not escape it. It was terrifying and painful. It was beautiful in every word and measure as it poured deep within, water for this trembling and thirsty soul:
The Ragamuffin Gospel was written . . . for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker. . . . It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God. It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.” ~ Brennan Manning
Could God’s love be for someone like me? I was wobbly and weak-kneed. I’ve been an inconsistent and unsteady disciple, battered and bruised to the core. I’ve been nowhere near perfect and my smarts haven’t helped me figure much of anything out yet. Me?
For the first time in my life, I experienced the giant, bewildering love of God.
I could see myself, not as the failure I believed myself to be, but I could feel in my soul that I was accepted just as I was. That perhaps I could be His Beloved. I didn’t have to do anything to earn it. I couldn’t help but want it. And it was waiting right there for me to reach out and grasp.
The more I could feel His love, the more I could see Him, not as a harsh task-master, but as a loving, gracious, compassionate Father, One who is beautifully and willfully fascinated with His children, One who wants to know us, to be with us, to delight in us.
We can never understand how to love ourselves, much less how to love others well if we have never come to accept God’s love and embrace our identity as the Beloved.
This one truth challenges the course of everything that I had believed. It changes the nature of all we are to become because this is our divine nature, this is the God-shaped hole within in us. This is our beginning.
Do you live in fear today? Have you believed that God could never love you? Have you lived covered in the shadow of shame?
You can begin your journey toward Beloved. You can find freedom from your desperate fear and claim your truest identity, your worth as the Beloved, His Beloved.