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  • Writer's pictureBridget Leenstra

The Beloved Community

Ah, community. How does that word resonate with you? They come in all shapes and sizes, various layers of performance, differing expectations. Some of us lean toward introversion and our communities are carefully chosen. Others of us just like to be with people... all the people, all the time. So, once we have uncovered the beauty of being seen and known, how do we actually live into it? How brave do we need to be? How can we nurture this particular kind of community? Who will live out our belovedness with us, and allow us to embrace theirs?

Perhaps you have people in your life who are like this for you; you can sit together without an agenda and the stories that unfold about how God is showing up enlarge your desire for Him. Speaking about the ways He meets you in your days, or wondering aloud why you feel His absence...just the uttering of the words seems to matter and you don't worry about saying what is true, how you really are, with these people. They celebrate with you. They mourn 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."

Maybe someone talks about how he notices beauty in unlikely places and your own awareness of beauty is sharpened. Another has followed a deep path of pain and has emerged with a fresh way of engaging all those he encounters, with genuine caring and kindness; his stories fill you with hope. Yet another is discovering how it is to have fun and freedom in life because she is adored by her Creator, and another is immersed wholeheartedly in the tender care of people who are just learning what it means to be loved. These are "anam cara," soul friends. People who have been awakened to their belongingness 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.

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, for enlargement and reshaping for His pleasure; this, not as a repairing of shortcomings but as a gift of delight that is filled up and then poured out, in joy and for His glory. The fruit of the Spirit is born here, blossoms here.

This journey cries out for like-minded others to share the road. The noticings of the glimmers of God's work come alive when we name and celebrate them. Times of sorrow, or waiting, or wondering, are somehow better when we are not alone and when those who sit with us also remind us of the presence of God. Who in your life might join you on this journey of authenticity, of belovedness?

Could you ask the Spirit to show you, watch 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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