Shortly after my post last week one friend wrote, “How do we live loved? I see the need for it. I understand the idea of it. But the word “abide” can seem so amorphous and non-concrete. How do you abide?” What great questions! Perhaps you have a similar desire for specifics in hopes of doing what we are talking about—moving beyond information about God’s love on to actually living in the conscious experience of Jesus’ love (“abiding” or being “at home” in His love). Significantly, that is exactly Paul’s prayer for Jesus followers in Ephesus in the First Century, which I pray for you in the Twenty First:
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
Eph. 3:14-19 (The Message, emphasis mine)
To experience (“take in”) the vastness of Jesus’ love involves . . . prayer—talking with Papa God (our magnificent, loving Daddy) and asking Him, by His Spirit, to enable you to “take in” His limitless love (consider the translation “to comprehend with all the saints . . . and to know [by personal experience] the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge”—which develops the meaning of Paul’s words, that his friends might begin to grasp and then experience personally, intimately, the great, expansive, beyond-the-horizon to beyond-the-horizon, love of Jesus). Open yourself to Papa’s answering this prayer, pray it for others, and talk with Him whenever the events of life cause you to doubt the reality of His love.
I can speak truth, but my telling you over and over that You ARE God’s Beloved will not get you there. Your repeating it over and over (especially if you doubt the truth) may actually move you backwards! This is not an area for “self-help!” We need the Spirit to embrace us, welcome us, speak love over us—like the Father loving the prodigal (as depicted here by Rembrandt), which Jesus says is exactly what our Abba is like. Only as His Spirit communicates affirmation to our spirit will we be able to begin to live as His Beloved. Fortunately, that is exactly what His Spirit does, for we have received the Spirit of a true child of the Father, and by that Spirit we call out “Abba” (Daddy!). (Romans 8:15; read also Gal. 4:6, 7). This is how Jesus lived; it is central to living the Jesus Way.
“Jesus had the Heart of a Son . . . knew himself to be the Son, felt very much like a [Beloved] Son, looked on God as “Abba,” his dear Father, lived in a Father-Son relationship. The divine relationship Son-Father filled his human heart; it was his secret, his joy; a constant awareness; a basic attitude that determined his behavior.” (Jan Bovenmars, A Biblical Spirituality of the Heart)
What Jesus experienced as the Beloved, He wants us to experience—He died, was buried, rose again, and ascended into Heaven so we could experience being His Beloved, so we could live enjoying the love of Abba—today, tomorrow, . . . always. You may not have known this as His purpose, but The Enemy knows, and thus The Enemy seeks at every turn to cause us to doubt God’s love. Most often we are so uncertain of God’s personal, intimate love for us that we misinterpret our experience—like the disciples and the man born blind, we misconstrue our circumstance. Jesus steadfastly refused to live that way—His Abba’s affirmation, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” was a core reality which He would not abandon despite hunger, lack of sleep, lack of money, lack of a place to “lay His head,” pressures of ministry, popularity, rejection, beatings, and even crucifixion. Being Beloved doesn’t protect us from hardship, but living as Beloved by God is essential to joyfully loving others in the midst of our pain.
Perhaps your contemplation of Jesus as The Beloved will be used by Papa to adjust some of your misinterpretations of life thus far; perhaps you will hear His affirmation of love for you through a song; or perhaps you will experience His embrace as you open yourself honestly to Him–expressing your pain . . . and doubt. To that end, I offer a paraphrase of a prayer by John Eldredge, from Fathered by God,
Abba, . . . Papa, . . . Daddy, what did I miss of your loving me? Did I ever hear that I am Your Beloved, that You are well pleased with me? Do I believe it even now? Come to me, in this place, transcend the years. Speak to me in ways meaningful to me, so I know it is you. Do I believe you want good things for me? Is my heart secure in your love? How was my young heart wounded in my early years? . . . And Jesus, you who came to heal broken hearts, come to me here. Heal these wounds in my heart. Restore me so I may live as Your Beloved. Father me, . . . please. In faith, trusting you to answer beyond my imaginings, I say . . . Thank you.