• Juliet Vedral

Love, the Riskiest of Bets

Today’s post is by Juliet Vedral. It has never been difficult for me to say “I love you.” Maybe this is just my personality—I’m an ENFJ so that’s kind of our stock-in-trade. Maybe this is just my cultural background—I’m half-Italian and in some ways all the stereotypes of being passionate, emotive people are true. I hug my friends when I see them. I hug new friends after we’ve first met. It’s not hard for me to show love. Except when it costs me.

I am now over four months into a relationship that has gone from a casual, “why not?” set-up to serious conversations about serious, life-altering matters. I’ve discovered that the rules of dating are primarily defensive strategies, the cousins of the job interview technique. You carefully edit out the bad to highlight the good. Weaknesses are re-cast to appear as strengths, making you appear wonderfully vulnerable (but not high-maintenance or a mess). Above all, you guard your heart and do not give it away to just anyone.

But the strategies that work in dating will kill a relationship.

What Does it Mean to Be Beloved of God?

It happened at the last day—the last hour really—of the 2013 Shalem YALLI kick-off retreat (Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative). As our ragtag group of contemplatives wrote down on paper the blockages we sensed to living lives connected to the Spirit, we placed them in a bowl. We were then asked to come up, take a few of the slips of paper, hold them up to God, then return them to the bowl with a prayer: “I am the Beloved of God.”

This snarky, snide former Pastors’ Kid (yes, that’s two pastors) rolled the eyes of her heart. What did that prayer even mean? But then that question tugged at me: what does it mean to be the Beloved of God? It seemed to be the question I had always been asking. Could that really be true of me?

I’ve always loved John’s gospel the most, primarily because of his audacity to define himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” What a claim, right? Yet it seemed the journey that the Spirit was inviting me to take as we left the retreat was to be able to claim for myself, for my core identity, “the Beloved of God.”

Flash forward 10 months. I am on a work retreat with the messaging team and Anne Grizzle, my mentor through Shalem’s YALLI program. I had suggested that one of my projects to incorporate contemplative practices in the workplace was to have this team take some time to learn how best to listen to the Spirit and each other. As we did some listening and discernment, I shared about my life and how I felt as though I have been on a pilgrimage in the darkness and not sure to what end.

To my surprise, two of my colleagues said that they believed I was “blessed” and that perhaps the season I was in was less about me and more for others. It was not what I’d hoped to hear. Still, it struck a chord in me—as in, it caused all the notes that had been playing in my head and my heart for months to harmonize.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, Life of the Beloved, writes that being the Beloved of God means that we are taken, blessed, broken, and then given to others. As Jesus was blessed, broken, and given to us, so are we to the world. It is at once a beautiful and terrible thing to claim about oneself.

As I contemplate certain areas of my life that feel broken, I recognize that perhaps I’m missing the “slow work of God” because change isn’t happening fast enough. Perhaps the challenge of being the Beloved is having the eyes to see that this life is about God and God’s work in this world.