If this all sounds paradoxical, confusing, and downright impossible, you're not alone. How do we find room in our Christianity for being beloved without making it about ourselves and losing sight of God? We want our faith to be about Him; He is, after all, God. But He says that He is God for our sake, and He wants us to live knowing how deeply He loves us.
And all of this is enough to make your head spin.
But it doesn't have to. Really, what it takes is separating these ideas from what a fallen world has to say about them and going back to the very beginning, to the way that God intended things to be.
See, the world says that if you fill up on yourself, you become egotistical. You become self-centered. You start to live in a world where everything is about you. And that's absolutely right. Unless whatever you drink of yourself is poured out as a pure offering. Now, now you're getting somewhere.
Which is why, when we try to go after a faith that can hold both of these ideas, it comes not by trying to have them both, but by passionately holding onto the one - we hold onto God with everything we've got and only through His lens do we see how beloved we are.
Go back again to the image of the bride. As she starts her walk down the aisle, she sees her groom's eyes light up. She sees him delight in her. She sees how deeply he loves her. She does not think, "Gosh, I must look beautiful for him to look at me like that." She does not think, "Yup. He really got a good one in me." She does not actually think about herself at all; she thinks about the love that's taking place between their eyes.
She looks at him looking at her, and she sees love. Pure and simple. Plain as day. And she thinks about how wonderful this love is and how blessed she is to have his affections.
On what is one of the beautiful days of all of her life, the day that so many young girls look forward to, she only knows her belovedness by seeing it in his eyes.
It's the same way we know ours.
The world says if we want to know our belovedness, we have to love ourselves. We have to fill up on our own love so that there's not a question in our mind. But faith says if we want to know our belovedness, we have to fill up on Him because only He can reveal that to us. It is by filling ourselves with God that we come into our fullness, not by filling ourselves on ourselves.
And this belovedness seeps back into what we know of God, as well. The world says if we want to know about God, we must study Him. We must pray, read the Bible, go to church, and fill our heads - and maybe our hearts - with the knowledge of who He is. But that's not quite it either. Faith says something totally different. Faith says that when we let Him pour into us our fullness, only then can we comprehend the fullness of God.
In other words, we cannot know that God is love until we are loved by Him.
Once more to the bride (last time, I promise). She sees her belovedness in her groom's eyes as he beholds her, and this does not make her think of herself, but of their love. In that moment, she is overwhelmed with her love for him. She doesn't think, "Oh, how lucky he is" or "Oh, how lucky I am," but rather, "how much he loves me" and "how much I love him."
The same is true of us. When we see the way that God's eyes light up for us, almost by instinct our eyes light up for Him. Whatever affections we have for Him are deepened by seeing His love for us dancing in His eyes. Whatever love we thought we had, or thought we should have, is sealed by this moment. And anyone watching this wonderful wedding whispers to the one standing next to them, "Look how much they love each other."
How could we not? For God is love, and we are His beloved. He is our bridegroom.
And we are His bride.