In today’s gospel, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we hear the Father’s voice, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I delight.” And when we look at Jesus, of course, what’s not to delight in? He’s a chip off the old block in a way that no other son ever has been or ever will be. What could His Father say but, “That’s My boy”?
The deeper question is whether we can hear those words addressed to us as well, as adopted sons and daughters of the Father through our baptism. Does God, in fact, delight in me? Most of us, I believe, don’t really believe that He does. If He does, it’s because He really doesn’t know our deepest, darkest, secret selves. We may know this is irrational – God knows everything – but as used as we are to hiding from others, we may feel that we can do this from God. If He does not delight in us, it’s because He really does know our darkest selves, and is disappointed/disgusted/bored/resigned with us. Or perhaps we’re just not on His radar at all, to delight or disappoint Him. It’s a big world, with billions of people, so He must be frightfully busy…
In a funny and thought-provoking TED talk by Brene Brown on “The Power of Vulnerability”, she talked about her 10 years of research on the relationship among how connected people are, how they experience shame, and how vulnerability in relationships affects these variables. (www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability).
Dr. Brown found that the people who experienced the deepest connections with others were those who were most comfortable with being vulnerable: with being themselves, warts and all, with others. Such people are secure enough in their worth that the value of connection outweighs the fear, “If this person sees me as I am, he/she will reject me.” As I watched the video, I thought (good as the talk was), “Oh, my gosh – if only she brought God into this topic.” The Father’s delight in us – constant, infinite, “unwithdrawable” – is the perfect fulfillment of our desire for connection, and the perfect antidote to the fear, “If I am fully known, I can’t be loved.”
Certainly, humans can know us and love us, but none can perfectly. None but God know every movement of our hearts, every thought, every temptation. None but God have our entire personal history present to his/her gaze at every moment. None but God love with an unwavering, all-encompassing love. As we receive and become ever more secure in His knowledge of and love for us, we are freed to love others from a deeply secure base, and to be ourselves with others. We are freed to risk, even to do extraordinary things, because we know we are loved through failures as well as successes. We know peace, because we’re not chasing approval or trying to save ourselves: we realize that God is “chasing” us; God saves us; that His delight in us has no contingencies. “Nothing we can do will make Him love me any more, or any less.”
It is amazing how hard it is for us to believe and live in this truth. It must be rehearsed over and over again. A touching story about a long-time evangelist illustrates how bedrock this truth is for living the Christian life. Asked about, of all the things he’d learned in his decades of ministry and evangelization, what was the most important truth, he paused, then sang,
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong/We are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
It’s so simple. And so it is for the Father. Let us know that we know that we know that we are His beloved sons and daughters. You delight in me, Father; I receive it.