Dear domestic Church,
Who do you say that I am? It is a question Jesus asked, and we all face today. We often define ourselves by the proverbial hat we are wearing—parent, spouse, employee, friend, child, sibling, caregiver, etc. As parents, we wear multiple hats, all at the same time, and it’s easy to get so tied up in the hat-wearing act that we start to feel like we are the hats rather than the persons wearing them.
The uncertainty of the times can be overwhelming. Plans are changing constantly. We feel isolated from one another more and more. It feels like we’re making decisions with many unknown variables. Sometimes the choice is taken out of our hands, but we have to grapple with what that means for us personally and for our families. We deal with all of that while keeping up daily routines, working, schooling, maintaining homes and relationships and trying to grow with God.
As this pandemic drags on, you’re probably feeling like all these hats are piling up one on top of another or they even feel stuck on your head. It’s an ongoing struggle for all of us as we try to figure out how to balance them without succumbing to their weight while caring for our children, our spouses, our homes and our jobs. Perhaps the last thing on your mind while you resist buckling under stress is that the first hat you wear is the most important one. This hat and the identity that comes with it is one that defines you at your core. This one says you are a beloved child of God.
In the book “Life of the Beloved,” Henri Nouwen teaches four truths about identity as beloved children of God. The first truth is that you are taken. You are chosen. This isn’t like being picked for dodgeball. To be “taken” means something much deeper. It is being seen, noticed and valued just for being you. As parents we can see so easily how much the Lord loves our beloved children and has claimed them as his own, oftentimes the challenge lies in remembering that we too have been chosen, that we too are God’s beloved children. Rest in that knowledge. Operate out of it, own it. This truth is not just an interior reality; it naturally moves outward. Once you are aware of just how beloved you are, you cannot help but recognize it in others as well.
One of the biggest challenges that comes with recognizing that we have been taken is to turn away from lies the evil one tells us. They can feel convincing: we’re not good enough, we’ll never compare to so-and-so, we shouldn’t share our accomplishments or our needs because it might make someone else uncomfortable, it might be prideful. Those lies might be whispers but they can have a thunderous effect. It’s times like this we especially need to root ourselves in who we are as beloved children of God. Being beloved doesn’t mean you’re loved more or less than someone else. It means you are loved for who you are because God created you for a unique and specific purpose.
As we overcome these lies and speak the truth of the Father’s love for us, we become naturally disposed to see our spouse and children the way God sees them. In these cold winter months, while we spend more time with the people in our own homes, take some time to meditate and pray about how you’re communicating God’s love to those around you. The more we rest in God, the more we can show others how important it is. We have to make time for our own prayer and spiritual growth if we want our spouses and children to do the same. Archbishop Vigneron reminds us of how important this is in Unleash the Gospel: “Just as airline safety videos tell us to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others—since otherwise we may not be able to help them at all—so parents need to have a living relationship with Jesus and to learn the faith themselves in order to hand it on effectively to their children.” (Marker 7.1)
It sounds great on paper, but how can we do this in our everyday lives? If taking quiet time to yourself is new to you, start small. Try to carve out five minutes today to reflect on the reading of the baptism of the Lord:
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” -Mark 1:9-11
Imagine God speaking the words he says after Jesus’ baptism to you today: “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.” What does that mean to you? Ask the Lord to cover you in his love; to help you rest knowing you’ve been taken and claimed as his beloved. Stay in that quiet moment and allow yourself to experience God’s love for you.
As you move through your day, strengthen your relationship with God through regular prayer. Taking time for conversation with God not only helps center you but makes you more aware of God’s movement in your life and the lives of others. Having an attitude of gratitude helps you recognize just how beloved you are. As for those whispered lies, call on St. Michael the Archangel regularly for protection.
Another important practice is to connect with others who know that they’ve been “taken.” Social distancing can make this difficult but finding community in fellow Christians can also bea source of strength and comfort in these difficult times. They can help you see how God is moving in your life, or they can help you recognize his love in others. A group text or chat, or a small group for prayer over Zoom are all great options for connecting with a community of faithful friends.
What we do and how we do it looks different these days, but who we are is never changing. While you’re wearing all those hats, facing the days ahead, hold on to your most important hat: the one that reminds you who you really are. Know that you’ve been taken by Christ. You are his beloved. Claim who God chose you to be, and you’ll begin to see his blessings all around you.
This series aims to communicate to parents that they are not alone, that God is working in their lives, and that He speaks to wherever they are at right now. Looking at the themes outlined in Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, we will explore five themes: Taken (being claimed by Christ), Blessed (seeing God’s blessings even in difficult circumstances), Broken (God meets us in our brokenness), Given (giving of ourselves), and Mass (where we are taken, blessed, broken, and given).