Beloved

an image of a woman facing a glowing sunset

In the last couple of months, I’ve almost lost track of the number of times the word “beloved” has been aimed my way. It started in the communion circle, when the person offering me the elements said, “Natalie, you know this, you are God’s beloved.”

Immediately, I cried. Actually, it still makes me tear up.

On the Thursday before Easter, I went to the Garden Prayer service at The Revolution — an hour and half of prayer that started at 11pm. They removed several rows of chairs and circled the stage with pillows. The lights were low, the music was pulsing, and dry ice was blowing. Prayer time was not quiet. People stood, sat, bowed, curled over the pillow, cried out, spoke in tongues, moved around. The word that came to me often during that time: beloved. I was God’s beloved.

I sobbed. Loudly. Like I hadn’t since my marriage imploded in August.

The word kept leaping out at me from a variety of blog posts and sermons. And then last week, at the Renew and Refine Retreat the day before the Festival of Faith and Writing, the contemplative writer himself, Ed Cyzewski, provided this verse as one option for us to use for centering prayer:

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. (Song of Songs 7:10, NRSV)

Yes, it’s from the sexy book of the Bible, but an argument can be made for reading it as an allegory of love between the Lord and His people, so that’s how I took it. For twenty minutes, I lay on my back on the floor of my church and focused on that, singing to myself an old youth group song,

I am His and He is mine, His banner over us is love.
I am His and He is mine, His banner over us is love.
I am His and He is mine, His banner over us is love.
His banner. Over us. Is love.

And then Ed and another organizer of the retreat stood in front of each person and said their name, followed by, “You are God’s beloved, and His desire is for you.” There were over thirty people in front of me, so I got to hear them say it over and over, and anticipate them saying it to me. I cried the whole time.

You see, it stings a little every time because it makes me realize that I am nobody else’s beloved, and that I wasn’t even my husband’s beloved while we were married. So there is grief.

But mostly I want to bask in the knowledge that I am God’s beloved, and that He has chosen me and will not stop choosing me. He treasures me; I am His treasure.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalm 139:17, NLT)

I’m grateful for each person who has looked me in the eye and told me this. And for each person who will do it in the future. Because I’m not done needing to hear it. It still needs to soak further into my spirit, into my brain, into my heart before the need is not so acute. But I’m getting there…

Of course, this is not just true about me and God — it’s true about you and God, too.
You are God’s beloved. Bask in it.

6 thoughts on “Beloved

  1. ouch, hurt, pain, deep grief
    oh beloved one
    you suffered much

    know
    you are loved
    you are God’s beloved

    I hold you
    up to your divine Lover
    desire

    hear all lovers
    calling you by name < Natalie

    believe Love.

  2. As Ed and Tammy made their way around the group my tears began to fall. I could see some of the impact these simple but powerful words had on each person and heard it echo in my own heart. The ache was raw for me. I longed to cling to it and KNOW. I think that I am still seeking to see this truth but so thankful for the way these words were poured out on us. The reflection on Psalm 23 had me focus on many things but “he anoints my head with oil” seemed to reflect how this prayer washed over me.
    You are seen friend. You are heard. You are known deeply by Him and you ARE loved. Thank you for sharing how deeply this spoke to your heart and soul. It was a pleasure to spend time with you last week.

  3. Thank you for sharing your heart and hurts, Natalie. When you shared at the retreat, I wanted everyone to pause and grieve with you. But I know there wasn’t much time. I am so glad that Ed’s words hit you powerfully and I hope you keep hearing them over and over.

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