On Being Loved.

“Once again, as in many other pages of the Gospel, Jesus does not remain indifferent, he feels compassion, he lets himself be involved and wounded by pain, by illness, by the poverty he encounters. He does not back away.”

-Pope Francis (The Name of God is Mercy, p. 64)

Yesterday I got a haircut at a little local barbershop called Supercuts. As I sat waiting for my chair to be vacant, I watched as a little girl—no more than six or seven—got her haircut. Everytime they turned her chair toward the waiting area in the front, she glanced over to her mom and let out a sheepish grin. Her mom, head in a magazine, didn’t notice the furtive glances and secret grins until the cut was over. The little girl jumped out of her chair and skip-ran over to her mom, approaching her the same way I imagine a princess approaching the queen.

She kind of stood there for a couple moments, a few feet in front of her mom, and they both just looked at each other and smiled. The girl was wearing a bright pink and purple dress, and for a split second I thought I saw her curtsey in front of her mom, unable to take her eyes or her smile off of her.

The mom smiled back, gazing over her daughter’s new haircut—a cut I can only describe as a hip spiral-staircase. She reached out her arms to grab her daughter’s hands.

The girl broke the reverberating silence with a quiet, “Do you like it?” that cascaded throughout that Supercuts.

Her mom, staring back at her daughter, said, “You look beautiful.”

And, like ripples across a pond at sunset, everything seemed golden.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

Today in church my pastor—Bobby—spoke on Genesis 3 and the story of humanity’s first sin against God.

Adam and Eve eat the apple, realize they’re naked, make clothes, and hide in the trees away from God.

This specific section of Genesis 3 jumped out at me:

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”     

As Bobby spoke about the first sin and the fear of Adam and Eve of encountering God, I thought of this little girl and her spiral staircase haircut. I thought about how excited and how proud she was to show her mom.

Look! Aren’t I beautiful?!

There was no fear in her eyes, only the anticipation of her mother’s smile.

And here, in church, I see a foliage of fear. And shame. The Lord came for his daily walk with his creation and could not find them.

They were afraid, they were hidden, and they were ashamed of the bodies they inhabited.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

I think of the ways I have hidden in the foliage, afraid to look into the face of God, afraid to join him in his walk of creation.

A fear of never being able to fully love someone made me define my masculinity by the girls I could talk to.

A fear of never succeeding occupationally made me define my worth by how many emails I still had in my inbox.

A fear of always failing made me define friendships by Facebook counts and birthday wishes.

I have grown up in church hearing God is all I need, but I keep going out into the garden, gathering leaves, and covering myself in my fear of shame.

If I can hardly look myself in the mirror, I can’t imagine God wanting to look at me.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

This past week I have been going to bed on time and getting up early enough to do devotions before work. Each morning I got up (reluctantly), drove two blocks to my favorite coffee shop, and spent time with Jesus. Sometimes that was reading a book. Others it was reading the Bible. And others it was just writing a prayer in my journal.

I often felt stressed and defeated, preparing to enter into another day I felt ill prepared for. A couple times I just thought about not doing it—it would be easier to not look into my own mess. Maybe I could just sleep for thirty more minutes.

But I got up anyways.

I spent thirty minutes laying out my fears, my excitements, and my sleepiness to God and simply asking that he take my jumbled mind and do something with it.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

Bobby continued the sermon today by talking about what it looks like to come out of hiding and walk with God in the cool of the morning. He talked about what it looks like to lay down the leaves we’re hiding behind and to enter into the ever-present gaze of God.

And as he was talking, a still, small voice told me, “You are doing it, Drew.”

It took me by complete surprise because I don’t feel like I’m doing it.

But God repeated the mantra, and I was filled with a warmth I can’t really describe.

You see, I always thought I would enter into God’s presence when I had let go of all my worries. I thought I would be told I was doing it when I had actually done everything perfectly.

But here I was, standing in church not two hours after I had driven there full of worries, and I felt God tell me I was out of hiding and walking with him.

Like a pebble in a pond at sunset, everything inside me rippled with gold.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

The girl in Supercuts is the now the personification of one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I realized last night and I realized today as I sat in church today that God didn’t want me to wait to bring him my broken self. He wanted my broken self just as I am.

He wanted me to approach his throne all along.

He wanted me to approach when I had a new spiral staircase haircut and when I had grabbed the scissors too quickly and cut my hair on my own.

He wanted all of me—every last bit. Because it is in his presence that I am healed and made whole. It is in his presence that I learn I am his son, worthy of more than I could ever imagine—not because of my own goodness but because of his love.

It is in his presence that I am able to bow, smile, and hold his hands as he tells me I am worthy and beautiful and loved.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

I don’t know the leaves you’re hiding behind. I don’t know if it’s the parents you never had, the drugs you did have, or the people who never liked you back.

I don’t know.

But I know you’re akin to hiding. I know the leaves are safe places to be because I have been there.

But I also know that God has enough room at his throne for you, too.

I am sitting there, broken but being made whole.

Join me, there is plenty of room.

*                      *                      *

I am the beloved of God.

*                      *                      *

I just finished a book by Henri Nouwen, and at the end of one of the chapters, there was a challenge:

For a week, start and end your day with the words, “I am the beloved of God.” Journal at the end of the week about how these words sounded to you in your heart at the beginning and end of the week (Discernment, p. 143).

This is my journal.

I am the beloved of God.

You are the beloved of God.

We are the beloved of God.