“I kept running around it in large or small circles, always looking for someone or something able to convince me of my Belovedness. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.” —Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
I remember when I was 13 and got my first job at a taco shop in Sparks, Nevada. I was so proud of myself and kept saying over and over to myself, “I am an employee.”
Then, I remember when I was elected class president in High School. I remember thinking, “I am important.”
The next year I had an abortion and hid it from everyone. I was Basketball Homecoming queen, waving at everyone with a big fake smile on my face, thinking to myself, “I am a miserable horrible unforgiveable shame-filled wreck (and they don’t know it.)”
When I ran off to college to escape all the pain in my hometown on a big leadership scholarship and tons of financial aid, I relished in the reality, “I am actually a college student.”
I worked my tail off in college to get done in three years and graduated, got a really high paying job and started a masters degree and worked 60+ hours a week, obsessed with doing anything I could possibly do to manage the feeling of “I am not enough.” (Yeah, it was exhausting.)
A few years later I got married to my amazing husband and felt the thrill of being able to say, “I am a wife.”
We started our family a few years later and I loved and adored being able to say, “I am a mom.” (Then, after having five kids in seven years, I got to say it again and again, combined with that other good old standby–“I am not enough as a mom.”
I started serving in healing ministry in a wide range of capacities and liked what it sounded like to say, “I am a small group leader” or “I’m the Soul Care Director” or “I am a speaker” or “I am a writer.”
When I was asked to go on a big church staff as a care pastor, I remember how foreign—but comforting—it felt like to be able to say out loud, “I am a pastor.” (When you’re a woman steeped in evangelical churches, trust me, it’s a weird feeling at first.)
Then I lost my job in a big messy downhill slide of church politics craziness and I felt this one in every part of my soul—”I am a failure.” (And my faith is a failure, too).
In the years that followed I started blogging and writing more, pouring my guts out about faith and life online and in a couple of books for the whole world to see and it felt so good to say, “I’m an author.”
Recently, I have been raising teenagers and trying to navigate full-time messy ministry and children and life and relationships and it all mushed together to form that really, “I’m just human and I’m tired.”
Oh, how we love (and hate!) labels and the messages that represent us.
They bring comfort.
They bring clarity.
They bring definition.
They bring power.
They bring shame.
They bring false identity.
But here’s the truth—these labels or negative messages about ourselves are not who we are.
All the “I am” statements we can come up with—no matter how positive or negative—are not who we are.
Sure, our roles are part of us. Our past is part of us. Our strengths are part of us. Our weaknesses are part of us.
But these labels are not who we are.
Underneath being a wife and a mother and a woman-who-had-an-abortion-and-hid-it-for-many-years and a writer and a ministry failure and a mom-who-never-feels-like-enough and a pastor and an exhausted human being trying to make meaning of her life, I am at my core Beloved.
Beloved by God.
That’s my true identity.
That’s your true identity.
When we wear that one, it changes everything.
It doesn’t mean we don’t struggle. It doesn’t mean we don’t have other titles. It doesn’t mean we believe it every day of our lives. But it does mean that underneath all the good and the bad and the ugly and the hard is our true identity.
Beloved by God.
Created in God’s image with Belovedness in our core DNA.
I am in a really interesting season of my life where my kids are almost all grown up, some of my ministry is transitioning, and I’m just too tired to worry about climbing up any ladders. It is oddly peaceful here because I am learning that all the labels and messages about myself I used to cling to so tightly, all the things that made me feel better about myself or worse about myself aren’t helpful anymore.
Ultimately, the most peace, the most joy, the most freedom, the most comfort comes from wearing my true identity: Beloved.
My SheLovely friends, this is my heart for me, for us, and for our friends and neighbors who are stuck with all kinds of labels and messages that are stealing peace and freedom, too:
That we would lean into our true identity and be able to say, “I am Beloved.”
And then freely offer this Belovedness to others.
Right now, it feels so clear that so many around our neighborhoods, cities, the world, are crying out to be-loved as well.
So let’s shed the false and limiting labels and wear our True one freely.
I’m sure trying and I hope you will, too.
Yes, I am Beloved. You are Beloved. We are Beloved.