Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “beloved.” Being the “beloved” constitutes the core truth of our existence. – Henri Nouwen
The Scripture this past Sunday was from John 16 and a piece of verse 27 caught my eye…
For the Father himself loves you dearly…
How often do you let that truth sink in? Not just as a piece of mental knowledge but also as an emotional experience? One of the books I am reading right now is called “Abba’s Child” by Brennan Manning and connecting with God’s love is one of the big themes. He points out something which really solidifies how powerful the love of God really is. Take a look at John 13:23 (NASB): There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved… I have never really thought much about this passage, but Brennan Manning points out that this single moment is what guides John’s identity of self:
In a flash of intuitive understanding, John experiences Jesus as the human face of the of the God who is love. And in coming to know who the Great Rabbi is, John comes to know who he is – the disciple Jesus loved… If John were to be asked, “what is your primary identity, your most coherent sense of yourself?” he would not reply, “I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist,” but “I am the one Jesus loves.”
This thought blew me away, that leaning upon Jesus; hearing his heartbeat, feeling his chest rise with his breath, this experience was what drove John’s identity and sense of self. So much that from that point on, John identifies himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.”
Before I read this book, if you were to ask me what is my primary identity, what drives my sense of self, I don’t know if I would have answered “loved by Jesus.” I have known about this truth in my mind and heart, I have had times when I have been emotionally overcome thinking about God’s love. The thought of being loved by the Son of God is even part of what led me to faith in the first place. Being a Christian has changed my life in so many ways, but so often my identity is clouded in other aspects of life: my job, my family, my friends. Even as a part of a Christian community, there is a temptation to let the things I do drive my identity: disciple, mentor, administrator, helper; or even believer and follower of Christ. Those however, are nothing more than responses, mere side-effects in comparison to a loving relationship with Jesus. I have gone through times of knowing I am loved, but always find myself sidetracked. The love of Christ does not wane, it is my own distractions which get in the way. My own self-criticisms which tell me that love can’t define me unless I do something to deserve it.
But that is the lie isn’t it? Perhaps the place to start, the way to allow God’s love to drive my identity is to stop allowing what I do or what others think of me define who I am. To rest my head against the chest of Christ, listen to His heart beat with love for me, allow myself to be continually affected by His love, and going from knowing about the love of Christ to knowing the love of Christ. Not because I did anything to deserve His love – His love comes without condition. His love is the most important thing about me. Just as His love is the most important thing about you.