Henri Nouwen was a successful university professor, writer, and lecturer. At the height of his career, he left the prestigious world of Harvard to live and work among the mentally handicapped and seriously disabled people at the L'Arche community in Toronto. From the competitive world of the best and brightest, he moved to powerless people of few words, considered marginal to society.
The move changed Nouwen's life.
Living among the poor and powerless, Nouwen rediscovered his true identity.
Christian faith offers a counter-cultural answer to these questions by saying our worth and identity come not from ourselves or what we do, but from God.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized. "As he came up out of the water, a voice from heaven said, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased' " (Mark 1:11, NRSV).
Before Jesus had said or done anything in his ministry, the heavenly voice said, "You are my Beloved."
Other voices tell us our identity is found in what we do or achieve, but the same voice that spoke to Jesus at his baptism says to each of us: "You are my beloved."
Throughout the Bible, God's voice speaks in many ways, inviting people to live in relationship with The Holy. Isaiah gives us this word from the Lord: "I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you"
(Isaiah 43:3–4). The apostle Paul says that by faith "we are children of God, and if children, then . . . joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16–17).
Underlying pain and loneliness, compulsive behavior, the need to perform, is the fear that our lives will have no meaning. But identity ultimately is not found in jobs or success, in what we do or accomplish. Our true identity lies in the fact that God says to each of us, "I love you; you are my beloved child."
This gift God offers us, the gift of "belovedness," can change us forever. To hear the voice of the Holy and to live as beloved children of God infuses new meaning into our lives, relationships, and the work we do each day.
Questions for discussion:
Do you ever find that you define yourself solely by what you have done or achieved?
Why do you suppose it is difficult in our culture to have a healthy sense that our true identity comes from God?