I haven't been writing for a while and I could come up with all sorts of excuses. They would all actually sound pretty valid. I took a temporary job through the winter, then did some traveling, had a son get married and now it's summer. All good reasons but not necessarily the truth.
The truth is that I go through cycles of self doubt and question my worth. I wonder if it's worth sharing my thoughts, whether anyone is even listening, and I lose sight of what I have to offer.
We all go through those times and we all know how tough they are. We usually keep those thoughts buried deep and pretend they aren't eating away at us while we work hard to put on a good face and stay busy.
So, what do I do when I get to that point and decide I need to make a bold move to pull myself out of the life-sucking cycle? Well, I get a tattoo.
Now I know a lot of people don't like tattoos and have definite attitudes towards them and I understand. But I happen to love them, if they are done right of course. In fact, I now have two of them and that's all I'll get, probably. I guess time will tell!
But the story behind my tattoo is what I feel led to share because it means so much to me. I know some of you are saying "Well I hope it means something because it's fairly permanent!" I think you'll understand why it was worth it and maybe it will be a reminder for you as well.
When I was going through a really dark time in my life, I felt overwhelmed by not only guilt, but shame on top of it. I took on the responsibility for more than my share of a crumbling relationship and felt guilty that I couldn't create the necessary changes for not only myself, but the other party involved as well.
Shame is not feeling bad about what we do but about who we think we are and at that moment I thought of myself as a failure and one that was unlovable. It wasn't true of course, but our perceptions often aren't.
One evening after talking over the guilt and shame issues with my counselor, I came home and tried to bury myself into my bed. I just wanted to disappear. That is when God gave me a vision.
Now I know I may lose some of you at this point, and believe me, I was not accustomed to having visions either. I've read about them in the Bible but thought they were for ultra-spiritual people or reserved for characters in the Old Testament. But here I was actually having one
It was surreal because it was like being in a movie and watching it from the seats at the same time.
I found myself hanging on the side of a dark gothic bridge with black clouds all around. The worst part was that I was being circled by two black birds; one big and one smaller. Having a fairly intense bird phobia, this was particularly uncomfortable! The combination of feeling like I could fall and the circling birds was too much and I found myself crying out to God for help.
While crying out for help, I was conflicted because at the same time I felt unworthy of it. I shouted at God and told him that of course I should be filled with shame. I am so unworthy that I don't even have a middle name. This caught me a little off guard.
Not having a middle name was strange to me while growing up but I didn't ever think too much about it. My sister was always trying names out on me so I could make one legal when I turned 18 but I didn't give it a lot of thought. I don't know if I buried some sort of resentment or if satan jumped on this little bit of fuel he could use on me at the time, but at this particular moment, it seemed like the worst thing in the world to not have a middle name!
It was at that moment that it felt as though I floated down into my safe, comfortable bed and heard the voice of God. I'm not sure if it was in my head or if it was audible but it was clearly Him speaking. He told me that He would be the one to give me my middle name. When I stumbled out the question of what that name would be, He simply said "Beloved". At that moment I felt an incredible warmth throughout my whole body, like I was being all wrapped up in His arms.
Then I fell asleep. And of course when I woke up the next morning, I did what most people would do, and I thought it was all a crazy dream. A good dream, but a crazy one. Beloved was not a word I often used or even thought of, and I certainly wouldn't use it to refer to myself!
I went downstairs to walk on my treadmill and picked up reading in my book where I had left off. It was an allegory about spiritual warfare. At this point in the book, the main character was trying to climb up to to the top of a steep mountain so he could see the war going on around him to make a battle plan. He was weighed down with loads of rocks he had to carry (which represented sin) and all of a sudden he had a new problem. He was being circled by two birds.
Not just two birds but two black birds, one big and one small. I gasped when I read the line that said that he called the big bird "shame" and the small bird "guilt". As he threw his rocks at them, he not only lightened his load but he drove the birds off as well.
That's when I knew that my vision was real and that God's message was heart-felt. He didn't see me as I saw myself. I saw myself as unloved and unworthy, loaded down with rocks, and He saw me as His beloved daughter who he delights in.
God knew that at that moment, I needed to feel loved, treasured, and delighted in. He knew I needed to feel safe, secure and warm with His touch.
My "Beloved" messages have not stopped there and God gently reminds me of how He feels about me periodically. Recently, while talking to a counselor, she handed me a book by Henri J.M. Nouwen called "Life of the "Beloved" when she thought I needed a reminder of what is means to be loved by God. She didn't know my story but knew the lovely book would fill my soul.
Another time, a friend texted me out of the blue and said I needed to listen to a song by Tenth Avenue North called "Beloved". I hadn't told her my "freaky" vision story but it came to me when I desperately needed another reminder.
Recently, while in Romans 9: 25, Paul quoted Hosea's words: "I will call Not My People, My People, and she who is Unloved, Beloved." It's sometimes easy to believe in the lie that we are unloved when it's simply not true. We need God to often cut through the fog of our own deception and speak truth into our broken hearts.
So, that brings me back to my tattoo. I'm tired of falling for the lie time after time and wanted a reminder that I could see at any moment, to remind me of God's great love for me.
I am His Beloved and if you know Him, you are as well. If you don't know Him yet, He wants you to see the truth of who He is. He loved us so much that He sent His Son, a very extension of Himself, to die to take the penalty of sin that we deserved. By the way, He called Jesus His Beloved too. That makes my tattoo even better because it puts me in some pretty good company!
If you want to, check out these lyrics to "Beloved". They're pretty great!