On Being Beloved
This morning I stepped into our back garden before I was fully awake. I had run downstairs quickly to let our puppy out so that her yips would not wake the rest of the house, and my eyes were barely open. The chill air grabbed hold of me, pulling me into wakefulness. The clouds were purple and gold with sunrise, the birds singing in full cacophonous chorus. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
I realized with a clarity that reached beyond my tired mind that I was being invited to bear witness to a miracle: daybreak. Clouds were sliding from one hue to another like a kaleidoscope; birds were painting the air with song. Could it be that I was being dared to receive this all as a gift, to enter in to something I had done nothing to earn? And could it be that this was not a generalized, “for God so loves everyone else” gift, but a specific, “[We have been] chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” Dare I open myself to let this morning grace wash me anew? Dare I let the unbidden beauty of this new day do its work?
A foundational spiritual practice for any follower of Christ must be to lay hold of who they are because of Christ, and let that be the place from which they live. Although narrow, this is the path we must travel to find fullness. Henri Nouwen, in his book Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, asserts that, “The great spiritual battle begins—and never ends—with the reclaiming of our chosenness.” The spiritual battle to claim and reclaim our belovedness is one that each individual must engage, and continue to engage as long as we draw breath.
But how does this become a spiritual practice specifically for writers? I have learned that there are particular questions I must ask as I apply myself to writing, that help me to engage this practice: Why do I write? Am I writing from a desire to garner an audience, to curate an image, to sound relevant, cultured, or erudite? When I write, what do I have to prove? Where am I enslaved by fear? Am I writing in the freedom as one who is called, chosen, and beloved? When I answer these questions, am I willing to face the poverty of my soul in the places where I am drawing an answer from anywhere but my maker’s gaze? Am I willing to fight the necessary battle, and ask others to fight alongside me? And am I willing to write anyway?
Nouwen’s impetus to write Life of the Beloved came from a deep friendship he had with a New York intellectual—a secular Jew—named Fred. As he struggled with what he would have to speak to a man so different from himself, Fred invited him to “Speak from that place in your heart where you are most yourself. Speak directly simply, lovingly, gently, and without any apologies. Tell us what you see and want us to see; tell us what you hear and want us to hear….Trust your own heart. The words will come. There is nothing to fear.” I am heartened to see that Nouwen fought his own battles with claiming his belovedness, but he chose not to hide. He chose to write anyway, to make it a vulnerable offering, and in so doing, he struck a match in the darkness to remind us that we aren’t alone.
A few months ago I read an article by Lacy Finn Borgo, a spiritual director for children. The article was expansive, but it is the first sentence of her bio that continues to reverberate in my soul. It read: “I am an eternal being in whom God dwells and delights.” I began to speak that over myself, repeating it aloud like a name that had been lost, because it had. My name is Amy, which means beloved, but that’s not something I grew up believing about myself. But that’s ok. I’m learning that it’s not too late. Because each morning the sun rises without my help, and each day brings a new invitation for each of us to open ourselves more fully to this grace of being named.
 Nouwen, Henri J. M. Life of the Beloved. 10th Anniversary Edition, Crossroad 8 Avenue, 2002, p. 58.
 Ibid, p 25.
The featured image is titled “Solo Lady of Shallot” is (c) of Lancia E. Smith and used with her permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Amy Malskeit is a lover of words and stories and people. She holds an undergraduate degree in English and Spanish, a secondary English teaching credential, and an MA in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry from Lancaster University in Northwest England. Her years teaching middle and high school gave her a love for middle grade and young adult literature, and the awkward awesome that being a young adult means. She is a mother of two who plants her garden and makes her home in the foothills southwest of Denver with her best friend, Kevin. She loves the water, and feels most at home when she is near the Pacific Ocean. She reads broadly, and is passionate about exploring big questions and small moments through her poetry, essays, and stories.