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  • Writer's pictureBridget Leenstra

The Beloved Community

Ah, community. How does that word resonate with you? Communities come in all shapes and sizes. They demand various layers of performance and have differing expectations.

Some of us lean toward introversion and our communities are carefully chosen. Some of us find an easy balance of solitude and sociability. Others of us really like to be with people... all the people, all the time. However we go about building it, community serves an important purpose in enriching our lives.

The beloved community is unique, I think. My post entitled "Belovedness" lays some groundwork for it: the idea of being deeply loved by God just as we are. As He satisfies our yearning for belonging, we find ourselves free to move about in the world as our genuine selves. Our flaws no longer shame us; instead we open our hearts to be seen as we are and our sense of belovedness flourishes.

Once we have uncovered the beauty of being truly known, it wants to be shared. Who will live out our belovedness with us, and allow us to embrace theirs? How can we nurture this particular kind of community? How brave do we need to be?

Perhaps you have people in your life that feel like this. The stories that unfold among you about how God is showing up enlarge your desire for Him. You can speak about the ways He meets you in your days, or wonder aloud why you feel His absence. You find that you can tell the truth with these people. They hold you close. They celebrate with you. They lament with you.

They are the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 3:4-7 love, beautiful in the poetic Passion Translation:

Love is large and incredibly patient.

Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.

It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.

Love does not brag about one's achievements nor inflate its own importance.

Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.

Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.

Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong.

Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.

Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

These are "anam cara," soul friends. People who have been awakened to their place of belonging in the heart of God, who are allowing Christ to shape them, delight in them and use them in the world to bring the Kingdom in their everyday, walking around life.

Maybe someone talks about how they notice beauty in unlikely places and your own awareness of beauty is sharpened. Another has followed a deep path of pain, emerging with a way of engaging those they encounter with genuine caring and kindness. Their stories fill you with hope. Yet another is discovering how it is to have fun and freedom in life because they are adored by their Creator for more than what they can produce. Someone else is immersed wholeheartedly in the tender care of people who are experiencing for the first time what it means to be loved.

Henri Nouwen in his book The Life of the Beloved says,

Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness

become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do.

A taste of beloved living cannot help but cause a longing for more of God. As that longing is satisfied, we are enlarged and reshaped for our joy and His pleasure. This is not as a repairing of shortcomings but as a gift of delight that is filled up and poured out. The fruit of the Spirit blossoms here.

This experience cries out for like-hearted others to keep company. The noticings of the glimmers of God's work come alive when we name and celebrate them together. Times of sorrow, or waiting, or wondering, are more bearable when we are not alone and when those who sit with us also remind us of the presence of God.

Could you ask the Spirit to show you who in your life might join you on this journey of authenticity, of belovedness? Listen for His response, and start with just one.

May you take note of His care over you as you bare your brave heart.



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