In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests.” Mark 1:9-11
Who tells you who you are?
Henri Nouwen, one of the great modern writers about the spiritual life, often reflects on the insidious power that the many voices of this world have over the formation of our self understanding. Voices telling us we need to do this or that in order to be successful, voices telling us we need to wear certain clothes if we want to be accepted, voices that tell us what we need to buy in order to be admired by others, voices demanding that you do certain things in order to continually prove you are good enough and worthy enough to be loved. Those voices are exacting and relentless. Who can live up to the ever-growing expectations of these voices? And when we listen to them, we can easily conclude that we are unacceptable, unworthy and unlovable.
But Nouwen reminds us that there is another voice calling to us with a very different message. It is the one and only voice telling you the truth about yourself – the still, small voice of God speaking tenderly and saying, “You are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved son, on you my favor rests.” These words are not just for Jesus, says Nouwen. God sent Jesus into the world to convince you that these affectionate words are for you as well. This is who you really are.
The voices of the world continually challenge you to prove that you are good enough and worthy enough to be loved. But these voices are trying to control and manipulate you, and they tell you many lies. The truth is, you don’t have anything to prove. God chose you before you were born, claimed you as God’s own, and in so doing has already proved everything about you that needs proving.
The key to life is learning to listen for and believe the voice of God who calls to you over the tumult of all those other noisy, deceitful voices saying, “You are my daughter, you are my son, on you my favor rests.” Prayer is the practice of listening for the voice of the One who calls you “Beloved.”