In a documentary titled The Fatherless Epidemic, it is noted that more than 18 million children in the USA live without a biological father, stepfather, or adoptive dad in the home. And those same children, according to Bay Forrest of Focus Ministries (Pagodo Springs, CO), often have no clue what it means to be a “dearly loved child” because their own lives have been marked by being “put down, mocked, abused, taken advantage of” – and they cannot even begin to comprehend what it means to be dearly loved by God.
This is where coming alongside one or two of these children and being the real-life hands, feet, eyes, ears, and voice of Christ in their lives helps them come to know Jesus – and to discover in their inner being what it means to be beloved by their heavenly Father.
One of the discoveries I needed on my journey of trying to follow Jesus is how beloved I am by my heavenly Father. Through Christ I have come to know more and more that I am beloved. This is my identity as a child of God. And as I’ve become more aware of God’s love, what has surprised me is that I have been able to better see others as the beloved of God.
This has not always been the case for me. I’ve always known I should love others who are different from me – and I have wanted to. But it has not necessarily been a reality in my heart. It was stuck in my head. I believe, too, that this is the case for most men. We know we should be loving and compassionate, but when we’re honest with ourselves, we know we really aren’t. The key, at least for me, has been gaining more and more of the ability to claim my “being the beloved of God.”
Listen to these words from Henri Nouwen: “When you discover your belovedness by God in solitude, you see the belovedness of other people in community and can call that beauty forth in ministry. It’s an incredible mystery of God’s love that the more you know you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and brothers in the human family are loved. The more you love others without conditions, the more you can love yourself the way God loves you and others. And the more you are loved by others, the more you realize how much you are the beloved of God.”
I am only beginning to find this to be true in my life. At this stage of my journey, God has given me opportunities to be with people who think and live out their understanding of the spiritual journey very differently than I do. Years ago I would have been both judgmental and critical of these folks. But something has happened in my heart. As I have come to rest in my belovedness, I have found more openness and even compassion for those who are different from me. This is truly the work of God’s grace and mercy in my heart. It has brought me a kind of joy that I never knew when I was more closed and boxed up in myself.
I truly believe that a wild man, a man who has opened his heart to the Lord and is trying to walk by faith, will more and more experience the truth of his belovedness – and in turn will become more compassionate and loving. Many of us men have tried to do our loving through our heads. It becomes a matter of the will – and something that we “ought” to do. Those around us often know that it is not sincere or from the heart. But the man who knows his belovedness in God has nothing to lose and everything to gain by being a more loving man. God will bless him far beyond his understanding as he walks in the love of God. Paul prayed that we might “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). Men don’t try to figure it out. Lean on your heavenly Father and learn to live out of your belovedness.