Imagine sitting next to your sister (or anyone), turning to look her in the eye, and saying, for the first time, “You are loved by Christ.”
Last week, I did just that while attending the session of Sharon Garlough Brown, pastor and spiritual director, at the Festival of Faith & Writing. Not only that, but on Brown’s instruction, I said out loud to myself, for the first time, “I am loved by Christ.”
Now why was this new for me? It should not have been. I was raised in a parsonage, have attended church for more than seventy years, and have known for most of those years that I am loved by Christ.
There is something about attending a festival of this kind that is truly a festival. A time of spiritual renewal as a writer and as a reader. A time to receive new understandings of old truths. And that was what Brown was helping a packed audience to do in the Covenant Fine Arts Center Auditorium on the campus of Calvin College.
Her title, Writing as the Beloved, attracted me to this session. I’ve been a nonfiction writer for only fourteen years and wondered what it meant to write as the beloved. The first sentence of the session description hooked me: “What does it mean to write as a response to the lavish and uncontainable love of God?”
I had a vague idea, but as my sister and I discussed afterward, maybe I was just jaded. I’d taken my being raised in a strong faith tradition for granted. I’ve always known I was created in God’s image, as are all people, and, in the parlance of my upbringing, that therefore we are all image bearers of Christ. But other than being able to roll that off my tongue, what did it really mean to me? Aware that I’m not addressing all of Brown’s points, this is what grabbed me most as a writer:
We write as a response to the love of God.
The apostle John says we are defined by the love of God, not by our accomplishments.
We need to practice “beholding” that love of God for us.
Beholding means “to stop and look and see and pause.” It’s like being on a beach on a sunny day soaking it up. There is enough sun for everyone. Enough of God’s love for all of us.
Our identity, as writers, is as God’s beloved, as God’s image bearers.
We do not have to fear that we are not good enough as a writer. We can pray to God to quiet our inner critic when it shows up on our shoulder. We can, using Brown’s terms, practice spiritual discipline to pause, ponder, pray, and wrestle with passages such as:
Romans 8:31-37 If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors.
As a writer, I found Brown’s reminder that we are loved by Christ infuses me with encouragement, like having a cheerleader sit on my shoulder, to continue to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard…about happiness and despair, beauty and ugliness, and everything in between.
Note: Sharon Garlough Brown is the author of Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey , “the moving story of four strangers as they embark on a journey of spiritual formation.”
Review of Sensible Shoes from Amazon: “If you’re a spiritually inclined person, I think you’ll really love it. It’s about four women, every one of them coming from a different place spiritually. But all of them in need of a [new] fresh cup of mercy. . . . So it’s terrific. I highly recommend it.” (Kathie Lee Gifford, NBC’s Today, March 11, 2013)
A WordPress prompt for day three of the Zero to Hero challenge in which I’m participating is to write something about “breaking down your inner critic.” I found seeing my inner critic as a loving God fit in nicely with the piece I chose to write for today.