“But there are many other voices, voices that are loud, full of promises and very seductive. These voices say, ‘Go out and prove that you are worth something.’ Soon after Jesus had heard the voice calling him the Beloved, he was led to the desert to hear those other voices. They told him to prove that he was worth love in being successful, popular, and powerful. Those same voices are not unfamiliar to me. They are always there and, always, they reach into those inner places where I question my own goodness and doubt my self-worth. They suggest that I am not going to be loved without my having earned it through determined effort and hard work. They want me to prove to myself and others that I am worth being loved and they keep pushing me to do everything possible to gain acceptance. They deny loudly that love is a totally free gift. I leave home every time I lose faith in the voice that calls me the Beloved and follow the voices that offer a great variety of ways to win the love I so much desire.” – Henri Nouwen in The Return of the Prodigal Son
Over this past year I have learned a new term called “differentiation”. Granted, I don’t fully understand all of the sociological and psychological meanings of this word, but I think I get the gist. Basically, can I be who I am regardless of what others say or think about me, or what I perceive they say or think about me. You may not know it, but this is really hard for preachers to do. So much of our work and its “success” is in the perception of others, and it is easy to think that is who you are and what defines you. At least it is easy for me. This can make you a neurotic and insecure person who doesn’t quite know who you are at times. Trust me, I know this to be true. And I bet some of you do too.
And then today I read this words from Nouwen that speak to my soul, and I’m guessing many people need to hear today. The world constantly tells us we are only lovable and worthy as much as we can earn it. But, God speaks love to us, as is, freely, no strings attached. I think sometimes that sounds too good to be true, and I think sometimes our churches and our version of Christianity has made this hard to believe. Nevertheless, this is the love presented to us in the self giving love of Jesus Christ who dies for us WHILE we’re sinners, or prodigals.
So, I’ve been on a blogging break for awhile, and not really sure why. Maybe I haven’t been inspired to write. However, when I read these words today, I felt the need to write it down and share with others. How different would your life be if you were totally (as much as is possible) indifferent to what others said or thought about you, and your identity was totally caught up in being the Beloved of God?
That’s the goal. And I’ll share with you what Randy Harris told me. The only way to achieve this, he believes, is through intense suffering, or developing a life that practices the discipline of silence. I don’t know about you, but I’ll try the latter.