Recently I have been re reading Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved and I’ve been thinking again about “chosenness”. In my Presbyterian tradition and in the larger Reformed tradition, chosenness can be awkward and difficult topic.The idea that we are chosen gets equated with election and also with predestination. The popular usage of those terms misses the mark as far as what many Presbyterians (but not all) think about these things.
God’s choosing of one does not mean God rejects or excludes the other. If you read the Bible carefully, you see that expressed commonly. Abel’s sacrifice is accepted but God goes to Cain to offer encouragement. Issac and Ishmael. Jacob and Esau. And we could create a much longer list. This is very difficult for us to grasp. Typically our experience with choosing involves rejection. This is what society tells us. Mac v. PC. Whooper v. Big Mac. Only a few get the job, are admitted to the university, make the team.
Nouwen gets is correct when he writes:
When love chooses, it chooses with a perfect sensitivity for the unique beauty of the chosen one, and it chooses without making anyone else feel excluded. We touch here a great spiritual mystery: to be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. It is very hard to conceive of this in a competitive world such as ours.
Does this chosenness of everyone mean there are no distinctions, no differences between us? I don’t think so. Some of us will sing better than others. Some of us will be better brain surgeons than others. Some of us will be better truck drivers than others. What our chosenness means is that each of us is enabled to be our honest and true selves- truck driver or brain surgeon. Our value is not in what we do, but in who we are- God’s beloved.
Believing that I am chosen and beloved by God is something I can only know sometimes. There are days I don’t believe it. It is easy for me to worry about my worthiness, both in God’s eyes and in the world’s estimation. For me, it takes practice and patience to live as God’s chosen. Never the less, I am called to live with this sort of chosenness.
All of us are to know that we, ourselves, are chosen by God. We are God’s beloved. God chooses us because God loves us. There is no other reason. We don’t earn this. We can’t manipulate this. All we can do is accept this reality. Once we understand our own chosenness, we can then realize that each person is chosen, and God’s beloved.
When we claim and constantly reclaim the truth of being the chosen ones, we soon discover within ourselves a deep desire to reveal to others their own chosenness. Instead of making us feel that we are better, more precious or valuable than others, our awareness of being chosen opens our eyes to the chosenness of others. That is the great joy of being chosen: the discovery that others are chosen as well. In the house of God there are many mansions. There is a place for everyone- a unique, special place. Once we deeply trust that we ourselves are precious in God’s eyes, we are able to recognize the preciousness of others and their unique places in God’s heart… It is impossible to compete for God’s love. God’s love is a love that includes all people- each one in his or her uniqueness. It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love that we can experience this all-embracing, non-comparing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters.
When we know, really know that we do not need to compete for God’s love, and when we know that our value and worth originate in God’s love and not our accomplishments we are free, truly free. We no longer need to compare ourselves to each other or worry about what someone else has or does.
This, of course, is not easy. If it were, the world would be a wonderful place. Well, it might even be heaven.
(for an older post on God’s choosing, see- https://conversationinfaith.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/gods-choosing/).