A beloved theology professor of mine in college used to start each class with a simple prayer, repeating, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). One line spoken slowly, one word dropped each time until there was only “be.”
Years later, a favorite writing teacher did the same during a week-long workshop. Let us pause each day to breathe into the spaces between the words.
I took their wisdom to heart, prayed these lines with children and adults. Always searching for more Scripture that can be stair-stepped with perfect simplicity.
Now I’ve found another.
. . .
Beloved, we are God’s children now. (1 John 3:2)
The first Scripture I ever memorized, for an all-school Mass.
The first time I ever got to proclaim the Word, second grade if memory serves.
White mimeographed reading pasted onto construction paper. I had to yank the microphone all the way down and perch on pink saddle-shoed tip-toes, and even then I could barely see over the ambo.
But the thrill of the words leapt up in me. I didn’t have to memorize it, but I did anyway and I carried those words in my mouth and mind for a good long week before I ever spoke them aloud, then scarcely hollered as loud as scrawny pipes could bellow:
SEE WHAT LOVE THE FATHER HAS BESTOWED UPON US?! THAT WE MIGHT BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD?!
Now my poor spouse has to endure my excitement each time this reading comes up in the lectionary.
I squirm in my seat still, antsy with anticipation, because I know this one, I know every line, it doesn’t matter that the translation changed, once, twice, ten times since second grade, for I know it in my bones and somewhere deeper, too.
My second-grade self is still itching to shout this to the rafters. Beloved!
I know we are children of God. I know someday we will see God face to face.
. . .
Beloved, we are God’s children.
I learned this the hard way. (Although every variation is a hard way, I have also learned.)
Some of my children have died and others have lived. But none of them belong to me.
Yet half a step beyond dread panic lies the freeing, fullest truth: they are not mine because they are God’s.
Exclamation and exhale all at once. The sigh of surrender into the wider, longer, brighter picture. What beauty, to belong.
“Everyone is related to everyone else on Earth,” our nine year-old explains matter-of-factly atop his bunk bed. An edge of adolescent annoyance already creeping in at my apparent inability to remember what he has already stated.
“If you go back far enough, we all come from the same family,” he insists, pressing me.
“From God,” his brother tosses out from across the room, not even pausing to look up from Calvin & Hobbes.
I stare at them, bemused. Genesis and genetics just distilled by two boys whose combined ages are barely old enough to drive.
(They are, of course, right.)
. . .
Beloved, we are God’s.
Classify this truth under parenting’s everyday epiphanies, the kind you catch astonished, afresh, and just as quickly catch the cliche: I realize how God must see me now, the way I see them. I understand how God must love me, the way I love them.
We are not God; we prove this plain truth on the regular. Yet I’ve heard this conversation echoed with countless parents so many times I know it must be true.
Loving our children – in the daily, exasperating, all-consuming way that parents love – changes us. They teach us God.
What matters most is basic belonging.
Behold: this is my beloved child. With whom I am well-pleased.
. . .
Beloved, we are.
God, the fact that we are here at all.
It is my daily astonishment.
The sheer fact of existence lays prostrate my whole self.
Grammar lessons taught me that “to be” is the weakest verb.
. . .
Can we believe we are beloved? Can we simply be loved?
So much of me is still that seven year-old in braided pigtails, driven by curiosity and delight, unable to slow down when she wanted to shout, determined to memorize when she only had to read, trying to figure out the same words she’s been circling around for decades.
Beloved, we are God’s children now. The whole line is everything: quiet strength, assured faith.
It cups the sea change of resurrection and conversion in two steady hands and offers them to the other in love.
Here is who we are. Now and forever. All we need is here.
I can never decide which word in this verse is most important. Now? God’s? Beloved?
Believe me, you can hurtle through the line in one breath. I first did it thirty years ago, and I do it every day since. But you can also spend a lifetime parsing each word. Unbraiding and rebraiding, quietly.
Surprised at how much stronger it holds each time.
Beloved. We are God’s children. Now.