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Happiness . . . and your identity. Part four.

What defines you? Hmmm. . . How do you describe yourself? Not your roles, but you. Hmmm. . . Identity.

We opened the door and ushered happiness into the room for discussion in the last week or so. The most popular class ever taught at Harvard seems to hold the clues to achieving one’s personal happiness.1It was built on these elements of self: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational, and Emotional - ‘twould seem to suffice so long as we define the terms from a place of truth. Spiritual? Why, yes! Our physical bodies are born to eternal souls, hence the reason our spiritual selves must seek out He who made us for himself - otherwise, we find ‘spiritual’ comes up empty, derailing happiness.


How to get at such truth? Being able to satisfactorily answer the big questions of life: How did I get Here? Created by God. Why am I here? [our search for meaning, destiny and living lives of substance…legacy] and one more--what happens at death?

In Happiness, part 3 - I discussed why you are here - made by God to have relationship with him, be fully known by Him. But there is more to that--truthfully, I failed to fully comprehend this point for most of my life: you and I are not just made for relationship with God but Beloved of God.

Being the Beloved: a much loved person, expresses the core truth of our existence.

While the next words were penned by Henri Nouwen, brilliant man of God, Catholic priest, scholar and professor at Harvard, Yale and Notre Dame, many of them could have been mine: I am putting this so directly and so simply because, though the experience of being the Beloved has never been completely absent from my life, I never claimed it as my core truth. I kept running around it in large or small circles, always looking for someone or something able to convince me of my Belovedness. It was as if I kept refusing to hear the voice that speaks from the very depth of my being and says: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.”

That voice has always been there, but it seems that I was much more eager to listen to other, louder voices saying: “Prove that you are worth something; do something relevant, spectacular, or powerful, and then you will earn the love you so desire.” Meanwhile, the soft, gentle voice that speaks in the silence and solitude of my heart remained unheard or, at least, unconvincing.

I think you understand what I am talking about. Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don’t you often hope: “May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.” But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run.

We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved.”

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: “I have called you by name, from the very beginning2 You are mine and I am yours3. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb4 I have carved you in the palms of my hands5 and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.6 I have counted every hair on your head7 and guided you at every step.8 Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch9. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you.10 You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. To which I say, 'Yes, Lord . . . indeed I do!'

Friend, your identity is given to you by God alone, and that changes everything.


This song says it all: I Am Loved by God:

1 - based on the best-selling book by Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, Happier

Some of this text came from The Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen.

2-from Isaiah 43

3-Song of Solomon 6.3

4-from Psalm 139

5-Isaiah 49.16

6-1Thessalonians 2.7

7-Matthew 10.30

8-Proverbs 16.9

9-Psalm 121.4

10-Psalm 81.10, 16

11-Psalm 27

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