In his book, “Life of the Beloved”, Henri Nouwen invites the reader to the experience of being and becoming Christ’s beloved. Written for a non-believing friend, Henri explores the meaning of being the beloved specifically in four main images taken from the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. He uses the words taken, blessed, broken, and given to illustrate how God draws us as his beloved and then uses us to bless others.
The word ‘taken’, in Henri’s sense becomes redefined as chosen. To accept one’s belovedness means to accept the truth that one is chosen by God. Henri points out that one must hold on to the truth that he/she is the chosen one. To be chosen by God means not believing the lies that come with self-rejection, failure, and hatred of self, but believing what God actually says about oneself. Even if the world that one lives in does not choose them, they must still rest in the fact that God has chosen them and that is all that has mattered. To build on the life of the beloved means to build on the unique ‘choseness’ of one’s life: selected for God, by God. To grow in one’s ‘choseness’ means to celebrate it constantly. Praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude expressed to God are ways to build on the foundation of being the beloved. Henri quotes that,”When we keep claiming the Light, we will find ourselves becoming more and more radiant” (Page 62). What he means by this is that as one continually give praise to God; one will become more like Him, and reflecting his glory even more.
The next point that Henri makes in becoming the Beloved is to understand one’s blessedness. He states on page 68 that, “I am increasingly aware of how much we fearful, anxious, insecure human beings are in need of a blessing”. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of truth to this statement. The word blessing literally means “to say or speak good things of someone”. Blessing, then, becomes the stamp of approval endorsing someone’s belovedness. In fact, Henri states that giving a blessing is the most significant affirmation one can offer. We can bless others because we have been blessed of God. Our blessings, in turn, speak of the blessings that have rested on us from when eternity began. Henri also talks of taking this blessedness into our times of prayer with the Lord. He states, “The real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me”. Besides prayer, another way to lay claim to your blessedness is to practice the presence of God. What he means by this is to daily give attention to the blessings that come into your life. “The problem with modern living”, he states, “is that we are too busy to notice that we are being blessed” (page 60). Finally, claiming one’s own blessedness always leads to blessing others.
Progressing in the illustration of the Lord’s supper, Henri recognizes the word “broken” to have carryover value into living the life of the beloved. Through pain and suffering we shine brighter and partake of the divine nature. This part is essential in experiencing the life of the beloved. Henri urges everyone to respond to brokenness by befriending it, and then secondly, to put it under blessing. By doing these things, one can live as a beloved of God.
Concluding, Henri takes a look at being given. This is the act of being poured out for others sake. He mentions that the greatest fulfillment in one’s life is giving oneself to another. By giving, one is completing the call and fulfilling the inward desire to be Christ’s beloved. Through giving, one is not to be so concerned with what one has to offer, but rather what can one be for another. This is freeing in itself and calls one to a state of being in Christ rather than always having the right thing to offer for the moment.
In retrospect, it is interesting to note that this book was originally penned for a friend of Henri’s that did not know the Lord. Instead, it has been a blessing for those who have walked with the Lord for a long time. Henri’s language is very deep, inspiring and poetic. It is refreshing to return back to the place of becoming Christ’s beloved. Instead of a 12 step process, or a how to guide, Henri urges each believer to look at their own uniqueness in Christ. That, in turn, causes us to be taken, blessed, broken, and given for him and his glory.