God’s Beloved Daughter-Child | Part 3 of 4
I haven’t always called myself God’s beloved daughter-child. For years I wouldn’t have dared presume such a high-minded view of myself. How did this happen? And how might this help me think about what I believed when I was 11 years old?
This post is about the first question: How did this happen? The second will wait. Thanks for being patient. If I don’t address today’s topic first, I’ll end up picking my childhood theology to pieces. I know this because I already tried and, thankfully, failed! It deserves better treatment than that. It was, after all, also a way for me to survive.
I am God’s beloved daughter-child, . . .
It’s the late 1980s. I’m attending a workshop for women. There are about 20-25 women present; one of my colleagues is the featured presenter.
My colleague describes a problem she sees often in her counseling practice: women of all ages struggling with issues related to their bodies. Things like self-inflicted abuse and eating disorders. All related to negative attitudes about their bodies and themselves as women.
They don’t seem to believe their female bodies are gifts to be treasured. They understand body-abandonment, self-mutilation, punishment or self-contempt. But not body-care, body-gratitude or love of their bodies. There aren’t many safe places for them to receive help. For many, church culture is part of the problem. In addition, they don’t have a vision of themselves as persons valued by God.
My colleague invites us to take part in an imaging exercise. My heart sinks. I never ever enjoy these. Way too “touchy feely” for me. Way too focused on our bodies.
Too late to back out now. I know almost everyone in the room. At least I’m not sitting right up front. I take a deep breath and tell myself I’m going to be alright. The exercise went something like this:
- My colleague invites us to move our chairs back and gather around so we can hear, see and imagine what she’s doing.
- She kneels on the floor and begins to re-enact the creation of the first woman.
- She talks to herself as though she were consulting with trusted friends. The first man is lying on the floor, asleep. (Don’t forget to use your imagination!)
- She removes a rib from the man, covers over the wound, and begins to form his rib into a living person.
- Like a potter or a sculptor, she takes great care with each part of her creation: relational yet separate, different, powerful, beautiful and dignified in every part of her being.
- She completes her work of creation and pronounces it good–a fully human woman created by God, in God’s own image. A relational being like God and like the man, yet distinctly herself.
- Finally, she invites us to close our eyes, focus on ourselves, and imagine God creating each part of us with great care and then pronouncing us good and beautiful bearers of God’s image.
I struggled to enter into the spirit of this exercise, given my intense body-shame, habitual self-contempt, and fear of men. I was uncomfortable with my colleague’s imaging exercise. Yet she planted a seed in my theological imagination.
. . .with whom God is well-pleased?
Several years later I still had negative attitudes about myself. They included and went far beyond my body. I lived in terror of being exposed as a fraud. I wondered whether God could still love me. I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m an adult woman , and I’m just fine not having my life and my deficiencies spread out for the world to see.
My fears turned into free-ranging living nightmares. Maybe my father was right. Maybe I’ve gotten it all wrong since the day I was born. I couldn’t imagine God would find me good enough, obedient enough, productive enough or worthy enough. No ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant’. Not for me.
Then I heard a sermon. It nurtured the seed my colleague already planted in my theological imagination.
The preacher talked about Jesus’ baptism and the voice out of heaven. The voice didn’t say, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well-pleased because he kept all my rules and performed many good deeds in my name.”
In fact, Jesus hadn’t yet performed any great deeds. He wasn’t widely known. He was, in fact, just at the beginning of his life’s work, not the end. When Jesus presented himself for baptism by John, God was well-pleased with him simply because he was God’s beloved son. That in itself was more than enough. Right up front, not at the end of his life.
It seems God was well-pleased because Jesus showed up–presenting himself to God just as he was. Coming for baptism along with all the others. It wasn’t about keeping rules or being productive. It was about being God’s beloved son, with whom God was already well-pleased. Unconditionally well-pleased. No matter what happened next.
Can it be that God simply loves me that way? For who I am, just as I am. Not for what I do or have done or might do. Can this be true? From cradle to grave? Every minute of every day? No matter what others think of me? No matter what I think of myself?
A thousand objections flood my mind. This means standing before God just as I am—not as I’m hoping to become, or like to think of myself, or as anyone else likes to think of me. It also means that the most important choice of my life is about being in God’s presence. Showing up. Empty-handed or not. Feeling needy or not. Feeling shame or not. Feeling anger or not. Discouraged or not. Proud or not.
It finally begins to dawn on me. Just showing up brings joy to God’s heart—like the waiting father’s first glimpse of his prodigal, lost, beloved son returning home brings overwhelming joy to his father’s heart. God isn’t looking for good little girls or good big girls. God is looking for me!
The beginning and the end
God doesn’t care what I look like when I show up. The fact that I show up brings joy and hope to God’s heart. No matter what the circumstances.
- This sounds like safety. A safe relationship. Is God offering me safety in relationship—always?
- The challenge seems to be whether I’m willing to risk safety and all that comes with that level of intimacy with God: vulnerability, truth-telling, asking for help, utter trust and confidence, courage to listen as well as speak, acceptance, growth, change, more risk-taking.
- God doesn’t seem to be on a mission to break my will. God respects and accepts my will. It would be strange if God didn’t respect my will. After all, God created it!
- God doesn’t want a good little girl who keeps the rules but runs away and hides. God wants me, just as I am.
- God believes in me, delights in me, finds me beautiful just as I am – God’s beloved daughter-child, with whom God is well-pleased.
Tell me, what more could there be? Is this really true???
To be continued. . . .
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 August 2014