Sunday, July 22, 2012

Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given

At the camp I drive for during the summer, we hold a weekly study for the staff. This summer we are looking at Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen. In this book, Nouwen writes about four words that have helped him identify the movements of the Spirit in his life. Nouwen's idea is that as followers of Jesus we are bread for the world, therefore we are taken, blessed, broken, and given, as the bread during communion. As I read the explanation of these words, I am finding them helpful in my own walk. In this four part series, I am going to share some of  my thoughts.

The first word is taken. You could substitute the word "chosen." We are chosen by God to be his beloved children. He has become our Father, and he is pleased with his children. As Nouwen states:

"Our preciousness, uniqueness, and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us 
in clock-time -- our brief chronological existence -- but by the One who has chosen us
with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity."

Unfortunately, we live in a world that tells us that we are nothing, that there is nothing special about us. Those voices bombard us constantly, from advertisements that tell us we must have the latest (fill in the blank) in order to be happy and fulfilled, to preachers who tell us how far short we fall and how much harder we need to work. Those voices do not come from our Father. They come from our Enemy who seeks to steal our joy, kill our spirits, and destroy our lives.

Nouwen gives three ways we can stay in touch with our chosenness. The first is to keep unmasking the world around us for what it is. The world is full of manipulation and destruction. It's prevailing wisdom is to step on anyone and everyone in the climb up the ladder. When we feel hurt or rejected, we should recognize those feelings, but also recognize that they are not the truth about ourselves. The truth is that the Father loves us with an everlasting love, and has chosen us to be his children.

The second way is to look for people and places where our chosenness is affirmed. These people and places will not be perfect, but as Nouwen writes,

"The limited, sometimes broken, love of those who share our humanity can often point us to the truth of who we are: precious in God's eyes." 

We need each other, and we need to affirm in each other the precious, beloved children that we are.

The third way is to celebrate our chosenness constantly. We are to be grateful to the Father for choosing us, and grateful to those who remind us of our chosenness. We need to be careful, because occasions for gratitude can also be occasions for cynicism, for questioning motives, even for bitterness. We must guard against this and consciously choose to be grateful.

 Rather than making us feel superior or more favored, claiming our chosenness will give us a great desire to help others recognize and claim their chosenness, their place as a beloved child of the Father. This is another reason we need to be in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can build up and encourage one another as we gather together as God's chosen, beloved children.

One final thought from Nouwen:

" It is only when we have claimed our own place in God's love that we can experience this all-embracing, noncomparing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters." 

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