When I think of the word “beloved” a very specific photograph comes to mind. But I’m not going to post it. This picture is of me and my parents. This Lent journey is not about me and my parents. This lent journey is about you and your relationship to God. So I’m going to describe the picture to you, and I want you to try to picture yourself in my place, with whoever you know loves you in such a way that it could be called “beloved.”
The picture is of my Senior night from high school swim team. My whole team knew my parents; they came to every meet that they could, took pictures, hosted a team dinner, and made a killer slide show every year. I am standing there with my head bowed, trying not to burst out into full on tears, in between my two parents. On the right, is my mother, with her head leaning towards me, her eyes closed, in a sweet smile. On the left, is my father, with his hand on my back, smiling as he watches my mom and I. I know, when I look at the picture, that my whole team is watching us while this is happening. But all I ever see and think about when I see this picture is the love between my parents and I, caught in the perfect moment.
When I saw this picture for the first time, I started crying. It is that picture-perfect moment that couldn’t have been staged in a photography session. I can tangibly see the overwhelming love between all of us in the picture. I know that I am extremely lucky to have this kind of relationship with my parents; I know not everyone has that. But I think a lot of people have something similar with someone else on the planet.
I know, however, with absolute certainty, that this is the way God loves us.
We could all have this picture hanging up on our walls with God. Maybe it’s not in the swimming pool, like mine. Maybe it’s in the church walls. Maybe in the mountains or with nature. Wherever or with whomever you see God, that’s where your picture could be. God is both leaning in to comfort you when you need it, or being the hand on your back when you need encouragement. God is right there, with his beloved child. That’s you.
In order for this “picture perfect” moment to happen however, go back to the word ‘beloved’. I think about this word, and I break it down into, “Be-Loved.” God loves us no matter what. But in order for true change to happen in our lives, we have to accept it. We have to feel and then act as though we are being-loved, and then show it to other people. This kind of love takes time and commitment to grow. So go out into this world, foster that type of love between you and God, whatever that looks like for you. And then go, live, and be loved.