Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reflections on Life of the Beloved

Please don't expect any great insights on today's subject. In school I am doing reflections on things that have to do with teaching. So it seems logical to reflect on what I am learning in church and Sunday school. That's all this is, a reflection with questions being more readily available than answers.

Today my Sunday school class continued to study Life of the Beloved by Henri J.M. Nouwen. The lesson covered the first chapter and part of the second in which the author talks about quieting those voices which say to work harder, accomplish something, make a difference and then you will be loved/lovable. Nouwen tells us that when we listen closely to that still small voice we will hear that we are the beloved and need not do anything extra to become that person to God and others.

That is so hard for so many of us to accept. When I started sharing with the class on my upbringing and how it said to work harder, show what you could do, be right or be a failure (no grey, only black and white views here), I saw many heads nodding. It seems I wasn't the only person to be brought up with messages that said I had to work hard to be worthy.

Earlier, during the sermon and lesson, the scripture was about giving up our lives to gain them. I found myself asking all kinds of questions about what this meant. I feel loved by God. He keeps giving me gifts and blessings which speak of his love of me. What I don't have is the feeling of having made any real sacrifice. In light of what Nouwen is saying, that is probably my parental voice saying, "Work harder. Be worthy. Make a difference. Sacrifice!" In reality my sacrifice is already made. I did give up my life. It doesn't seem terribly sacrificial to me when I think about it. But when I chose to follow Jesus' teachings and considered what God wanted me to be doing when making choices in my life that is exactly what I was doing. I sacrificed my self control for God's. Since giving up my choices to God, he has chosen to reward me with signs of his favor and love.

"That's too easy!" a guilty voice in my heart whispers. Why is it so hard to give up the idea of a heavy burden when making a sacrifice to God? Why can't we easily still those voices when listening to God call us the beloved? Someone in class said that being the beloved doesn't mean a life free from pain and struggle, and while everyone agreed with that we also agreed that it does mean a life filled with bright spots that give us moments of Peace, Hope and Joy.

It occurs to me that if we listened more to that still, small voice we would have lives filled with joy. Susan, of Rickety Contrivances, left a lovely comment on my last post about love in which she talks about how she knows love from other people and God. It took me two readings of her comment to realize that she did indeed say that God tells her she is loved. "Sorry, Susan!" In Sunday school one of the members spoke humorously about how she is her own worst enemy when it comes to seeing the love of God in the actions of others in her life. Another member of the class asked a question that indicated his processes were all logical on this subject. When I hear from God that I am loved it has little to do with logic. For me, love is a feeling, and I have spent way too little time analyzing feelings logically. Was it the logic in Susan's statement that made it hard for me to hear? Whatever, it is her ability to analyze feelings that makes her such a good writer. Perhaps it is time for me to start doing that. Would that make me a better listener?

So, as stated in the beginning of this post, no conclusions. Just more questions. But this subject is an ongoing study and will probably be revisited. Peace!


jsd said...

"Would that make me a better listener?" I think you may have answered your own question within this post. Listening is two-fold I think and it isn't passive, (1) it's being intuned and focused on the speaker - being in the moment with them, and (2) quieting your own dialog and pressumptions to get to the other person's meaning.

The other question, "Why is it so hard to give up the idea of a heavy burden when making a sacrifice to God?" I think we're taught that if something comes easy then to mark that as suspect. But, maybe instead the view should be, if something comes easy then you're on the right path.

Jesus talks about following him requires sacrifices, but the reward is great. Maybe when you began to let go of your parent's dialog, and claimed/reclaimed your own - the sacrifice was "easy" because the burden of carrying it had become so great, and that letting go left room for you to feel God's love, thus making the sacrifice appear easy.

I think "easy" is a word that can get us into alot of trouble, because sometimes what one dubs easy is another's great burden.

Anyways, just some reflections to add to the mix.

Lee said...

Thankx JSD! I think you are right. To some extent I did answer my own questions. Still, anything I come up with in a reflection is something I would want to test out real life (rl). I have this huge tendancy to get on one track and not look or listen to anything else that is going on around me. Thus my concerns. I also see it as a monumental task for me to overcome what I see as shortcomings on my part. So I expect to work hard. (g)

Still, it is amazing that what I want to know for certain seems so simple. I wish it were as easy to let my students know that they are ok and have done what they should so things are as they should be. I wonder if just having faith in them will be enough.

And I am wandering mentally here. Sorry, just got home from work. Hope you have a great week.