.WFTM**, 2-23, 3-13, 3-26, 4-9
(1) The Experience of Being the Beloved
Take each passage below separately. If you can, mark phrases you want to talk about–words that touch you or amaze you. Do the first passage then the second.
“You are . . . God’s special possession . . . .” 1 Peter 2:9
“What we need is a knowing that is deeper than belief. It must be based on experience. Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to cast out fear. Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to resist doubt. The reason that [Gerald] May calls such knowing ‘contemplative’ is that it results from meeting God in a contemplative state. It comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus, gazing into his face and listening to his assurances of love for me. It comes from letting God’s love wash over me, not simply trying to believe it. It comes from soaking in the scriptural assurances of such love, not simply reading them and trying to remember them or believe them. It comes from spending time with God, observing how [God] looks at me. It comes from watching [God’s] watchfulness over me and listening to [God’s] protestations of love for me. . . . Contemplative or existential knowing may be supported by belief, but it is never reducible to it. It is based in experience, the direct personal encounter with divine love. The goal is, as stated by Paul, that we might know the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, and so be filled with the utter fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).” David Benner
“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). He comes to you from within, where you may encounter the mystery of Christ’s presence in and through your own thoughts, feelings, hopes, imagination, dreams, and love—as well as your shame, your secrets, your rage and jealousy, and all the many ways you resist love. Because God is love, Christ in you represents the coming of love into the totality of your being, but this is not a sentimental, ‘feel-good’ love. The love of Christ is a force for healing, an agent of transformation, and a challenge to metanoia . . . .” Carl McColman
*Talk about something from above that encouraged you when you think about being God’s beloved. Share from the heart.
(2) Hindrances to Being (Feeling like) the Beloved
What are some hindrances to you actually feeling that you are God’s beloved? See if any of them show up below. Note thought you want to talk about.
“Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one–for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one–for God himself has given us right standing with himself.” Romans 8:33f.
“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all at the preposterous idea of ‘worthi-ness’.” Thomas Merton
“Faith is the courage to accept acceptance, to accept that God loves me as I am and not as should be, because I’m never going to be as I should be.” Paul Tillich
“If I make anything out of the fact that I am Thomas Merton, I am dead. And if you make anything out of the fact that you are in charge of the pig barn, you are dead. Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.” Thomas Merton
“To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son–it seems impossible . . . but so it is.” C. S. Lewis
(3) More Possible Hindrances
Each writer below is trying to make a point. Do you need to hear any of these specific messages? Discuss these one at a time.
“I get so tired of beholding my brokenness. But the deeper I go into the depths of it, the deeper I experience my belovedness too.” Jonathan Martin
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover Transformed in the Beloved!
John of the Cross
“I focus on doing more for God
when I should focus more on being with God.
I open my hands to receive from God
when I ought to open my hands to release what blocks God.
I seek to find God, for God to bless me
when I ought to consider how God
has already found me
has already blessed me
how near God is
how real, how true
how fully, ever present.
What wonder is this then, that
in every moment,
in every circumstance,
in every gift or loss,
when God is at work
I am more likely thinking about
my next meal
my next deadline
that driver who cut me off?”
For Further Consideration (before or after our next meeting/maybe during)
*These are additional warnings of “hindrances.” Is there anything here you need to watch out for?
“As long as I keep running about asking: ‘Do you love me? Do you really love me?’ I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with ‘ifs.’” Henri Nouwen
“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 sequence of events is quite predictable. The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world.” Henri Nouwen
“All of these mental games reveal to me the fragility of my faith that I am the Beloved One on whom God’s favor rests. I am so afraid of being disliked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed, that I am constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I think I need and deserve. And in so doing I move far away from my father’s home and choose to dwell in a ‘distant country.’” Henri Nouwen
Further Questions to Ask of Yourself
*Is it true that in this life you’re “never going to be as you should be?” Do you hate yourself for that? Should you? Does God hate you for that?
*Do you think that fear of judgment will keep you in line better than unconditional love? Can you trace that idea to its source and critique it?
*Can you quit keeping score? Do you laugh at the preposterous idea of ‘worthiness’?
“Thinking about Jesus is not the same as being with Jesus.
God help us all to be with Him.”
“Beloved silence: Thank you for listening to my confessions and failures.
Under the shadow of your light, my darkness is no more.”
Peter Traben Hass
**Wisdom From the Margins (the book we’re using)