by Gwen Shipley, CFDM Faculty

I’m no John Lennon but imagine with me a world free from the dehumanizing notion that one’s value depends on one’s productivity. (And you may indeed be saying that I’m a dreamer…!)

It is difficult to discern whether this over achieving ethic is…
a) embedded in the adamic DNA
b) the result of cultural conditioning or
c) a pathological coping mechanism survivable only by the fittest.
Perhaps by the 21st century A.D. we might be expected to know better.

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Whatever the source, and admittedly a challenge of degrees, it seems nearly everyone is touched by the toxic contaminant of proving our worth by doing. Given the message of the Gospel, grace through faith, it is reasonable to assume that the point of reference would be different among those identifying as Christian. But, alas! As with the divorce rate among the self-proclaimed faithful, so it is with the sacred romance of The Beloved gone awry.

Therefore it is with good reason that CFDM’s Formation 1 begins by establishing that we are The Beloved of God. Period. That before we do a blessed thing, God is at work willing and doing of God’s good pleasure—which is all love—before we utter so much as a feeble squeak or flex a wimpy bicep.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, “you who are weary and heavy-laden; I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28) For some this is a first encounter with freedom. For many others it becomes little more than a repurposed to-do list. Instead of learning the unforced rhythms of grace, we begin to assume undue responsibility for our own righteousness. In that case, it can be disorienting to wake to the realization that consent is what God asks us to bring; that the heavy lifting is initiated and performed by the Spirit. In Christian formation we are challenged to take seriously this theological butterfly effect, a shift which has major implications for our relationships with God, ourselves and others. Seeing the futility of well-intentioned self-effort can produce disillusionment, disappointment, confusion, anger—especially if we’ve been at it for some time. It is a painful transition, but one that takes us deeper if we will allow it.

For me, one such season of transition included releasing a specific and valued identity. I was stripped of the ability to contribute to the household income, and routinely isolated from friends, family and fun. For someone whose core identity is wrapped in a package of doing, this was death-dealing before it was life-giving. The things I reached for to prove my worth were removed in order for me to see myself valued with or without them, a process that continues. Thomas Keating calls these “over-identifications” and “emotional programs for happiness.” You may have found yourself on a similar path.

In fact, what is being birthed in such times is the freedom to be known and loved as the person one truly is, not as one believes they should be or could be, or is even in the habit of being. It is rather entrance into “a new world that is manifested in daily life, not only by greater peace, calm, and sometimes, greater joy, but also by a greater concern for others in practical ways.” (1)

If you find yourself in a time where access to familiar possibilities is suspended, you might ask things like, “Am I in transition? What is being birthed? Can I let myself simply be, and be loved by God in this time? How might you be deepening my experience of you, God? What would you like me to see, how else would you like me to know you?” Keep this in mind: Any labor and delivery nurse—my daughter is one—knows well the intense period between the early and later stages of giving birth termed transition. Support is vital as all attention and energy turns inward in preparation for the final moments that produce the long-awaited, messy promise. It is a delicate, dangerous passage and no new life emerges without it.

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” Theodore Roethke

1. Keating, Thomas, Manifesting God. (New York, NY: Lantern Books, 2005) p.96

Shapes of Fear

by Margie Van Duzer, CFDM Faculty

During the first week of Lent, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of American Art in Washington, DC. Now, I am absolutely no art expert. I never took an art class or art history class in high school or college. The embarrassment and shame experienced through my elementary school art projects lingers to this day. However, as somebody who believes God can speak through this creative medium, I consciously prayed as I went from painting to painting; I asked to have the eyes to see what God wanted me to see. I was drawn in by a dark and moody painting of four robed bodies. Although the robes covered their heads, one of them was facing directly towards me while I looked at the painting. Well, not exactly facing me because this shape had no face. Just darkness where a face should have been. The other three were turned to the side, so they were completely covered in robes. All four of them were wearing easily visible shoes-shoes for running away. The painting was called “Shapes of Fear”. I found myself identifying with these shapes. When I am in a state of fear or anxiety, it is as if I am faceless. I lose sight of the reality that I am God’s beloved daughter, loved in all of who I am, a person created, named, known and redeemed by Christ. Instead, I feel like a faceless, nameless non-entity, where my only distinguishing feature is my overwhelming inclination to flee.

Shapes of Fear 1930-1932 Maynard Dixon Born: Fresno, California 1875 Died: Tucson, Arizona 1946 oil on canvas 40 x 50 1/8 in. (101.5 x 127.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design 1956.10.1 Smithsonian American Art Museum 2nd Floor, North Wing. Used with permission.

How dark and lifeless these shapes looked, so far removed from God’s intent for us as God’s beloved. And yet, how often I live in that place of faceless fear, not, as Henri Nouwen would say, claiming my belovedness.

This Lent, with this picture still looming large in my mental background, I have decided to make it a spiritual discipline to consciously choose “belovedness” whenever the feelings of fear arise. And they do arise. Surprisingly, I have found that the memory of these four robed shapes somehow make it easier to name the fear when it comes and claim my rightful identity. Instead of making a move to flee, I am able to stop and turn towards the God who intimately knows all and lovingly is with me still.

Being the Beloved

by Boni Piper


Dear Beloved,

This blog is called, “Being the Beloved” because that is who we are, even though we so seldom live in that place. It’s hard to reconcile the “dirty rotten sinner”(as a friend of mine calls herself) with “the Beloved.” Yet isn’t that the very thing Jesus turned on it’s head? His death and resurrection let the sinner become the Beloved. These two themes are constant in scripture and the church. I learned about the “dirty rotten sinner” way before I learned about being the Beloved. Sinner is the obvious one. I see my sin. I do the things I don’t want to do. I turn from God more than I like to admit. And in that very place of sinning, God’s Spirit touched me and redeemed me and gave me a new name…Beloved.

I think it pains God when I forget that and when I choose to live in the “sinner” lie rather than the beloved truth. Where I make my home changes everything. It is my identity, the spirit that comes from me, the way I treat others and myself, and defines who God is to me and who I am to God. That God the Father sees me through the eyes of Jesus and what he has done demands that I see myself as his Beloved. The love child. The one he loves to spend time with. The one he woos and calls and equips. Shame has no place in the life of the Beloved for God looks upon her/him with love, and smiles!

Being the Beloved means believing in what God has done and said about you. How much of believing you are the Beloved forms your identity? How does claiming the name Beloved help you identify with your true self? What would be different in your life, if being the Beloved was something you believed with all your heart?

That’s what this blog is about. We want to encourage each other in this God given identity of being the Beloved. Knowing that makes us different, but different how? We want to be more about being than doing, but we don’t want to “be” just anything. We want to act, feel and demonstrate that our being defines us, and that being is, the Beloved. It should mean everything to us. It should form our identity, decisions and actions.

It is our hope that this blog would help you in forming your identity, in your discernment and in your actions. Please feel free to dialogue so we can join our wisdom together on this crucial part of being Christian.