When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Soon, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ Matthew 3:16-17
I have long believed that the greatest challenge in the Christian life is fully, deeply, and truly grasping the nature of our belovedness in God. It seems audacious in the extreme to take those heavenly words spoken about Jesus and apply them to ourselves—to believe that we, broken, struggling human creatures only occasionally glimpsing union or fulfillment— could be God’s beloved children—even more so that God could say of us, “with them I am well pleased.”
Our upbringing, our culture, and life’s hard knocks have taught us that belovedness, grace, and favor are to be earned. It seems almost impossible to believe that they could be ours just for being. Belovedness is our natural state because God created us, knit us together in our mother’s womb, brought us into this world, to love us, and in the faith that we could at some point become a clear enough mirror to reflect that love back to God and to the world around us.
We begin each new year, at the start of the season of Epiphany (which means, “manifestation”) with the feast of the Baptism of our Lord. And I believe each year in this feast God issues us a challenge—“Is this the year you will let my love envelop and heal you to the core of your being? Is this the year you will trust my love for you despite the outward circumstances of your life? Is now the time when you can let my grace, unearned favor, be the driving force in your life?”
The fact is, that despite our best intentions, our hearts cannot love others from a deeper place than we have allowed the love of God to soak into them. And when we truly realize (have an epiphany of?) the completeness of God’s love for us—that God loves us from eternity to eternity, and beyond our wildest imaginings, despite anything we could ever do and whatever might happen to us— we cannot help but see the corollary truth: God loves every other human soul just as much.
As we celebrate the feast of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, and remember our own baptisms, soak in the love, dear ones. Let this be the year, the year of your epiphany, the year that you let God’s love truly change your life.
In Christ’s deep peace,