Recently, I was dealing with some insecurities about my identity. Identity insecurity is an unwelcome but regular visitor in my life, especially as someone who today identifies as “queer” and “female” and “pastor” in a world that often considers their coexistence to be oxymoronic. Some days holding those identities together feels like trying to assemble a puzzle on the bottom of a swimming pool.
Thankfully I meet monthly with my spiritual director, who’s excellent at processing these things with me. I told her about my most recent episode of insecurity, and, after some deep listening and clarifying questions, as is her practice, she invited me to take some time during our session to listen to God. The question she wanted me to ask was, “Jesus, what words would you use to describe me?”
I listened. The first word that came to me was “beloved.” I instinctively dismissed it, listening for other words. When she checked back in with me, I briefly mentioned having moved quickly past “beloved,” and of course, instead of letting it slide, she dug in and asked why.
Upon consideration, I knew it wasn’t because I believed it to be untrue. Some of us go through stages of questioning God’s love as we deconstruct aspects of our faith, but I felt secure in the knowledge that God loved me (sort of). It just seemed too obvious a fact to help with my insecurities.
I explained to my spiritual director that in the Generous Space context, it’s very common to hear you’re “the Beloved of God,” especially during retreats, or in our Facebook groups. Our Executive Director, Wendy, has intentionally taken every opportunity to remind us we’re beloved, and that we belong, which has been such a gift.
Still, I think because I tended to hear this word in the context of broader groups, I’d been interpreting it as a collective, categorical descriptor instead of a personal one. My belovedness felt like a blanket statement laying on my surface, too general to absorb under the skin.
What I was letting myself hear was: “God loves humanity, and I’m a human, so of course I’m beloved.” Or perhaps: “God loves LGBTQ+ people, and I’m queer, so of course I’m beloved.”
And those things are partly true, but there’s a deeper layer that my spiritual director got me meditating on:
“Beloved” is how God feels about me, me specifically.
Not just because I’m human.
Not just because I’m queer.
It’s because of the particular queer human I am.
Because of my Beth-ness.
I’m loved not in spite of my complexities…
…but because of them.
To put it another way, God not only loves me – God also likes me.
God is particularly fond of me.
I am the one God loves.
(So are you, I’m pretty sure… you should probably ask God and see what you hear.)
(And if you hear you’re beloved, which I’m certain you will, that in no way diminishes the specific way God loves me.)
Maybe this isn’t so revolutionary – maybe it sounds like what you learned in Sunday school. (Cue the pesky insecurities creeping back in yet again as I briefly wonder if this is even worth writing about… but I have a hunch I’m not the only one who needs this reminder. )
Queer Catholic theologian James Alison writes,
“There are many mansions in God’s house, and [God] invites each of us to discover what is [God’s] plan for each one of us – we are called by name, not by category.” – more at http://jamesalison.co.uk/texts/theology-as-survival/
We are called by name, not by category. Today is Pink Shirt Day, a day when students across Canada are raising awareness about bullying, which often takes the form of name-calling. Some of us have been slotted in categories that don’t fit, and called names that aren’t our own. Snide comments and names are hard to shake. How many of us adults still find unwanted insecurities rising from the ashes of names we were called in the past?
Thankfully, God calls us – and I would add, God loves us – not by category, but by name, by our true name, the name written on the palm of God’s hand (Isa. 49:15). God is both a creator and a namer, and God sees to our depths, to the very core that’s made in God’s image. God delights in and holds together all our underwater puzzle pieces.
We do not need to do anything to earn or deserve this personalized love. Long before we could accomplish or fail at anything, God looked at us and loved God’s handiwork. (You’ve got to admit, the design is unparalleled.) And as Romans 8 says, nothing can separate us from God’s love (again, not just collectively, but individually). What could erase our belovedness when we have a God who made us and already saw who we deep-down really were, who wrapped words around our individuality and called us good?
This is the kind of realization that could sweep away a multitude of insecurities, a plethora of false names. We are each Beloved, and we each belong irreplaceably in the grand Story. What would shift in our lives, in our world, if we really believed this… every rare, sacred, unprecedented one of us?