Dear Beloved: Little Triumphs
“Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” -Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
In this new series, beginning with the post below, I want to reflect on the idea that each one of us is the Beloved – we have a value that cannot be taken away and that is rooted in our dignity and uniqueness, a worth based on being and not contingent on what we do or have not done. With this in mind, I wrote these letters to myself but also more broadly to all of us, to each individual who desires to love and be loved, who has felt that thrumming doubt within them – the voice that says perhaps you are not enough. In these letters, I want to listen to a different voice – one that says you are set apart and loved, and can love yourself as well; that your value does not rest on anything other than being, and that you can rest in this truth and feel at peace.
Before I get into the first letter in this new series, I want to include a beautiful quote from Henri Nouwen that explores this idea of what it means to be the ‘Beloved.’ I have also reflected on this topic in greater depth in a past post on my website, The Gaze, which I would encourage you to also check out.
“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’ But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen.
That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.'”
-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
Never belittle the achievement of a single day. By that, I don’t mean a list of actual achievements or some physical markers of “progress” upon which you feel you can build your self-worth. What I really mean by this – the “achievement” of a single day – is that just making it through another day is a cause for joy and celebration. Take the time to remember the beauty, the beauty that you saw around you and the beauty that you glimpsed and then weren’t sure you really saw inside yourself. Every moment, every step is a victory.
I know you are looking for greater triumphs. I know you feel that only the ones that are visible matter. And you reassure yourself that this is not the case, but then you keep slipping back, you are drawn into the same trap, and you set your life to scale against another. But the standard of measurement is invalid. It is impossible to place two distinct yet beautiful things side by side and obtain reliable results. The voices that you hear are fickle. They tell you what you need to be (worthy? successful? loved?) but even if you had every one of those things in worldly form, they would never be enough. Some of the most beautiful things grow in secret where they are hardly ever seen. And yet this does not detract in any way from their beauty. Being seen or noticed is not a prerequisite for beauty. In fact, the things beneath the brightest lights are not often seen for what they truly are, and in the darkness, their facade of beauty fades.
This day is a gift. Every day is. Unwrap it with wonder. Unwrap it with joy. It was given to you, because it was chosen specifically to meet your deepest needs, even those you don’t know yet. And yes, every single time you reject a dark thought in favour of light, every time a beautiful idea fills your mind or you believe that you are loved and deserving of love, you have achieved, you have triumphed, you are working forward on the path that is uniquely yours and no one else’s. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?