There are many ways that God communicates to us that he loves us and wants us to live our life completely joined to him.
This brief piece is to affirm two messages that the Lord wants us to know and to live. I have found them both foundational to my life as they help me live in ways that please God, brings healing to me, and is of some benefit to others.
The first word is “Chosen”. A few thoughts on this follow:
The playground was usually a fun place to be when I was growing up, but there were times of stress in that venue. One of the recurring times of stress was the choosing of teams for pickup games of baseball. Naturally, the best players were always chosen first and then down the line until the last person was chosen, who always played right field. I was never the right fielder but I was also never chosen first so I would stand trying to look both capable and nonchalant until one of the captains chose me.
Throughout those years of growing up and into adulthood the insecurity that haunted my life made being chosen far more important than it needed to be. I ran for political offices in high school and college and being chosen brought more relief than it did joy. Relief that assuaged my haunting insecurity rather than joy that I was valued and selected to do something of value for others.
And then at age 20 I thought I was choosing Jesus—only to learn in later years that I was in reality responding to his choice of me. My choosing Jesus did not resolve the haunting insecurity. It wasn’t until I embraced the truth that Jesus believed I was of value and he chose me that I began to experience healing in this deep area of my life.
This being chosen by God is reinforced as we experience it through others. When Kay chose me (and she keeps choosing me for over 60 years) the sense of being chosen is lived in another way. Over the many years of walking with Jesus and walking with his people their choice of me has continued to be both healing and empowering. And has helped me communicate to others how important they are to Jesus and to me – they are choice!
Some Thoughts from others on the subject
The Israelites were a chosen people
“We first see the idea of grace in the Hebrew Scriptures through the concept of election or choseness. This is eventually called “covenant love” because it finally becomes a mutual giving and receiving. This love is always initiated from YHWH’s side toward the people of Israel, and they gradually learn to trust it and respond in kind. The Bible shows a relentless movement toward intimacy and divine union between Creator and creatures. For this to happen, there needs to be some degree of compatibility, likeness, or even “sameness” between the two parties. In other words, there has to be a little bit of God in us that wants to find Itself.” Richard Rohr’s Daily Reflections
Jesus was chosen
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will proclaim justice to the nations… In his name the nations will put their hope.” Isaiah’s Prophecy about Jesus in Matthew 12:18-21
The Twelve were Chosen
“A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends ‘ You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.” The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
Paul was Chosen
“The Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” Acts 9:15
We are Chosen
“God chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless.” Ephesians 1:4
“We are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” Colossians 3:12
“We have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings. From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues and employers encouraged you, you were already “chosen. To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not competitive, but a compassionate choice.” Life of the Beloved by Henri J. W. Nouwen
“Mystical experience is the best possible cure for low self-esteem. You know you were chosen by the One who does the choosing! You know you are intimately loved by the One who does all the loving!” Richard Rohr’s Daily Reflections
“In the suspicious atmosphere of the contemporary Christian church, it is good to know one’s ground. When others label me and try to exclude me, as too conservative or too liberal, as too feminist or not feminist enough, as too intellectual or not intellectually rigorous, as too Catholic to be a Presbyterian or too Presbyterian to be a Catholic, I refuse to be shaken from the fold. It’s my God, too, my Bible, my church, my faith; it chose me. But it does not make me ‘chosen’ in a way that would exclude others. I hope it makes me eager to recognize the good, and the holy, wherever I encounter it.” Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris
“When we have become convinced that we are the beloved of the Father, the whole world opens up to us as an opportunity to express our gratitude. Have you embraced your identity as the beloved—the Father’s gift to you? That’s what matters. That’s the ‘will of God.’ And it is the only thing that will satisfy your thirst.” Sacred Thirst by Craig Barnes
“Being God’s chosen does not mean doing well. It does not grant access to all the answers but means contending with hard questions, thankless tasks, and usually a harrowing journey, which in Jesus’ case leads to the cross.” Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris
The second thing I want to affirm is the word “belonging”.
I grew up in a home where I belonged. Which was both good and not so good. Because wherever we belong – especially in our earlier years—shapes us. My parents loved me and I felt it in my growing up – but they didn’t know how to express this so that from my teen years on I struggled with insecurity and too strong a desire for approval. They were married during the depression and they were poor – so belonging meant I grew up with a poverty mentality. They were turned off by over enthusiastic Christians – so belonging meant I grew up with no introduction to Jesus from them. My dad was a responsible hard worker – so belonging meant I was a responsible hard worker.
By God’s grace at college I encountered some people who belonged to Jesus and they invited me to belong too. Those relationships – with Jesus and with his followers – took who I was and helped me grow into a person with Kingdom values.
Here are some quotes that I have found helpful to understand what it means to belong to Jesus and to companions with Kingdom values.
Barriers to Belonging
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” The Gift of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown
“It is religion’s job to teach us and guide us on this discovery of our True Self, but it usually makes the mistake of turning this into a worthiness contest of some sort, a private performance, or some kind of religious achievements on our part, through our belonging to the right group, practicing the right rituals, or believing the right things.” Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
“If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.” The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown
Belonging to God is Life-giving
“We come to understand that Belonging is the name of the Triune God. Our heart is rooted in that ultimate belonging. We do not have to earn this, nor do we have to deserve it. It is gratis—pure grace, pure gift. We need only enter into this fullness through gratefulness.” Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast
“I believe that the home we long for and belong to is The Kingdom of God and whether we realize it or not, we are all of us homesick for it. It is where Christ is.” Secrets in the Dark by Frederick Buechner
“We do not have to be successful or pleasing to others to have a healthy sense of self-esteem and worth. That worth has freely and conclusively been given to us by God. Failure and/or disapproval of others can’t take it away.” Significance by Robert McGee
We Belong to Each Other
“Jesus calls us to seek our unity in and through him. When we direct our inner attention to God to whom we belong, then we will discover that in God we also belong to each other.” The Road to Daybreak by Henri Nouwen
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment. Belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown
“The basic human need is for a least one person who believes and trusts us. But that is never enough. Each of us needs to belong. Belonging is important for our growth to independence and it is important for our growth to inner freedom and maturity. It is only through belonging that we can break out of the shell of individualism and self-centeredness that both protects and isolates us.” Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
Jesus knew who he was and to whom he belonged!
He was already valuable and special in his Father’s eyes. And because he knew who he was he was free to take the lowest place and wash the feet of his disciples. He could let those who controlled the religious system put him to death. He could speak with boldness and authority to friends and foes alike. Because he knew he belonged to his Father he was able to connect with people in belonging ways. His life of significance to others was based in part on knowing to whom he belonged. And this is true for us as well.