I cried myself to sleep. Tears poured unhindered from my eyes and pooled on the bridge of my nose before they dropped to my pillow. I was going over and over identity stories. I was naming something I had come to own. I was confessing a story I live in nearly every day. And that meant telling myself the story in clear words.
I am not lovable.
I’m not worthy of love, I’m not deserving of love. And even if I were, well, I’m just not that person people are drawn to. People don’t love me. I’m not the character in the story that gets pursued. I’m not the person people fight for, or fight over, or hold on to, or get hung up on. I’m not lovable.
This is the story I tell myself and have been telling myself for a very long time.
I’m not the girl who get’s romanced, I’m the girl who bares a cross. I am not lovable.
Oh, friends, there is so much that plays into this story and I’m only just beginning to dig into it. But, here’s what I do know so far, this story has deep roots. I know that this story lies, but I also know that this story carries truth too. And perhaps that’s why it is so capable of causing pain.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of this story is the way in which I so quickly generalize it. I transcribe it from a few people, to all people, and from all people, to God.
I begin to accept God’s love, to believe that God loves me, and then something happens. Something plays into this old story that tells me I’m unloveable and suddenly I’m uncertain again if anyone could love me, if anyone really does love me, and if God loves me. I can’t lay claim to love. I can’t accept it. Because, this story speaks to my identity.
This story gives me “I am” statements. I am not this. I am this. I am not the person people love. I am unlovable. I am not the person God could love. I am unworthy of his love – just like I am unworthy of anyone else’s love. Those that say that they love me don’t truly love me, they might like me, but at the first sign of my crazy they bolt, the first taste of me pushing them away in fear they stay away, when my needy insecurities come out they keep me at arms length.
Even Bryan plays into this story. I know he loves me, but I continue, even after ten years of marriage, to doubt it. I see his actions through the filter of this story I already hold. I transcribe seasons when he pulls away, seasons when we can’t communicate well, into this story. I doubt his love.
Even in friendships I feel unlovable. I am constantly waiting for the friend to figure out that I’m not that cool, and go hang out with someone else. I’m not the person people pursue, or invite to parties, or want to just hang out with. I’m awkward. I’m not fun or funny. I’m not witty or engaging. I’m uncomfortable and insecure.
The most damaging way this story plays out, though, is how I place it over my relationship with God.
I am starting to think that the only way to begin to weed out this story, and start planting seeds of a different story, is to start here. Because I think if I could truly believe, not just that God loves me, but that I AM lovable to God, then nothing else would matter.
I have transcribed this story from other people onto my relationship with God, so perhaps I could transcribe a new story from God onto my relationships with other people.
And I think it begins with one word.
This word is so unfamiliar to us, isn’t it? It feels old and not often used. I know more about the feeling it carries than the meaning. Beloved. Yesterday I looked up the meaning of Agapētos, the word used for beloved throughout the New Testament.
Beloved, esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love.
Worthy of love. Those words struck me like a knife. I’ve been sitting with this word worthy for months. Rolling it over and over again in my mind. Wrestling with it. Because, here’s the thing, my good evangelical upbringing won’t let me apply this word to myself. I am not worthy of love, especially not from God. I am sinful, completely and utterly unworthy. And yet there it was staring me right in the face, this word Agapētos, beloved. Those who are being loved, those who are worth loving.
I lay on my back with my sleeping daughter spread out on my chest, watching the light slowly brighten in the room. I hadn’t slept much and I was tired, but I knew the option of sleep was a thing of the past. I stared at the spot where the window and the wall met and watched as it lightened. And I thought about this word Agapētos. First used in scripture by God at the baptism of Jesus, then used by Jesus in a number of parables, then used over and over and over by his disciples towards all brothers and sisters in Christ. Beloved.
And I realized something… it must be God who first speaks this word Beloved to us. We can’t speak it over ourselves.
I can try as hard as I like to believe that I am worth God’s love, that I am lovable, but I won’t believe it. I know myself too well. I know my story too well. I need God to break onto the scene (like he broke onto the scene at Jesus baptism) and speak over me the words that he spoke over his beloved son. And here’s the thing… I think he does.
I think that’s exactly the act of the crucifixion. “You are my beloved. I call you worthy of love. Love so great I would die for you. You are no longer slaves, you are Beloved Sons and Daughters. I have grieved over you. I have pursued you. I have fought for you. And now I have died for you to win you back. I love you completely, totally, absolutely. This is now your new identity. Not unworthy, but worthy. Not unlovable, but loved.”
You are beloved.
It’s the same word God spoke to me over and over again for the whole month of August.
You are beloved.
I thought I had begun to accept it, to live into it.
You are beloved.
Fresh tears moved softly down my cheeks, reflecting the morning light that was now streaming through the window. I knew I needed these words again, stronger, more specific this time.
You are beloved.
I thought of the garden I have been planting at The Simple Farm.
A few weeks ago I planted rows and rows of flower seeds, but only a few rows sprouted and grew. This week I spent two days weeding and then reseeding. Planting again what hadn’t taken root. This is the work of the heart too, isn’t it friends? I need to continually pull up the weeds, the lies, the stories, the identities, that aren’t where they should be and I need to reseed.
There’s something interesting about weeds though; most of them are edible, they carry some good in them, just like the weeds in our hearts often carry some truth. But they aren’t full truths. This story I tell myself is rooted in true hurts, in valid experiences, in true parts of my story, but I put it in places where it shouldn’t be, I give it power to run rampant and overgrown. I need to pull up those weeds. Not once. Not twice. Many times.
The truth is I’ve been planting good seeds lately. I’ve been taking in this word of being the beloved and letting it take root in places. But, I’ve been planting in soil that is covered in weeds. I thought I was pulling out the weeds, but I’m discovering I have just been pulling at the shoots, the tendrils, the leaves. I haven’t gotten to the roots yet.
My arm felt numb from the weight of my daughters body laying on it. I shifted and moved hoping not to wake her. With my cheeks wet from decades of hurt, my heart cried, “I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want to be seen as strong. I want to be loved.”
And God responded, “Ok, it’s time to go deeper. It’s time to pull up the roots. It’s time to clear out space in this ground so that the roots of my love can take hold unencumbered.”
We aren’t looking at the weeds anymore, we’re digging straight down to the roots.
And we’re gonna need to reseed. I need to hear again and again the voice of the Spirit planting seeds of love in my heart. You are beloved. You are beloved. You are beloved. Perhaps a few more little seeds will sprout and take root, perhaps not and I’ll need to reseed again. And again. And again.
You are beloved. You are beloved. You are beloved.
I wonder if this is why the apostles used this word in their letters, most notably the Apostle John wrote this word in his books over and over again. Beloved, those who are being loved, those who have been loved, those who will be loved, those worth loving. I think they knew that we all need to hear this word. We all need to know we are loved. The Apostles knew their brothers and sisters would need reseeding. Reminders. Perhaps the Apostle John used these words so much because he needed those reminders himself, because he knew this was the identity he wanted to claim.
This is the land I want to claim too. This is the identity I want to have. Loved by Jesus. Beloved.
I am beloved.
Friends, you are beloved.
We are beloved.
Grace and peace,