Baptism of the Lord, 2022

The Baptism of the Lord is a beautiful celebration. When I read or listen to the passage, I especially notice the words, “You are my beloved Son.” I believe that these words must have been important to Jesus as he started his ministry of teaching, healing, and just being present to people. In his earthly ministry, different people react differently to Jesus. Some are healed and give him praise, some accompany him as friends, some people are confused by him, and some are outright hostile. I wonder whether Jesus himself went back to those words “You are my beloved son” as he encountered these different human reactions in the course of his ministry. In his humanity, did it remind him that his Father’s love was steady and enduring? 

Of course, because we share in Jesus’s baptism, these words of love are words for us, too. I wonder, as I reread this, what it would mean to fully know and believe in our own belovedness, the way that Jesus did. Don’t get me wrong; I am not suffering from an especially bad bout of self-esteem! It’s more that I think we can deepen our sense of God’s love for us and our own lovability. This is good both for its own sake and for how it can strengthen the ways that we serve others. Example: I am a teacher. Most of my students seem pretty enthusiastic about being in class, most days. But I have those one or two students who miss a lot of classes. If I were not grounded in a sense of my own lovability, I could make their absences about me, about whether I am respected or loved enough, or a good enough teacher. In reality though, this is almost  never the reason.. They are sometimes ill, or struggling with stress, or have a difficult family or roommate situation. It is not “about me”, almost ever. Same goes for that awful driver who felt the need to cut in front of me abruptly on the Jamaicaway, or the time a family member did or didn’t do something the way that I wanted it. I might think it is is about me, but it almost never is.

Paradoxically, if I know, deep in my core, that I am God’s beloved, the way that Jesus surely knew it through and through, it frees me up to stop thinking about myself in kind of self-centered ways. It sets me free to really attend to what others need. Maybe my student needs to be reached out to compassionately, so that we can set up a plan for how to catch up on work, and have a conversation about what is going on. Maybe my family member is feeling tired or anxious, and needs a little TLC. Maybe I can let the actions of a terrible driver, slide off of me. My being loved or respected doesn’t depend on that them; it depends on God alone.

For me, there are two main ways that I can get back in touch with that sense of lovability. The first is to spend time in prayer, and to be in God’s presence, quietly. Prayer is restorative love. A second way is to remember the ways that other people have loved me over the years: my parents, my husband, my family and friends, or even strangers who have gone out of their way to be kind. This is a way of knowing and reconnecting to God’s love, too. Where have you known, you are God’s beloved one? Take time to recollect it, today.