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160 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1992
I feel within myself a deep-rooted resistance to proving anything to anybody. I don’t want to say: “I will show you that you need God to live a full life.” I can only say: “For me, God is the one who calls me the Beloved, and I have a desire to express to others how I try to become more fully who I already am.” But beyond that I feel very poor and powerless. (117)I can understand those feelings. I too am at a point where I’m tired of people trying desperately to prove this or that point to people “on the other side.” Instead, I prefer to relax, live the life I’m called to in an open, transparent way, and let God work in people’s hearts as he chooses.
Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone or abandoned, I find myself thinking: “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” Instead of taking a critical look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others’ limitations, I tend to blame myself—not just for what I did, but for who I am. My dark side says: “I am no good. . . . I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected and abandoned.” (27)As with other books I’ve read by Nouwen, this one has a gentle, honest, encouraging tone that comforts and challenges me in valuable ways. Life of the Beloved reminds me that my value is from my identity as beloved by God, not from my talents or apparent usefulness in the world. It also affirms the beauty of deep friendship and long conversations about real topics—an art that seems to be diminishing in our world of quick, sound bite–drenched communication.
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. (28)
Beneath all my seemingly strong self-confidence there remained the question: “If all those who shower me with so much attention could see me and know me in my innermost self, would they still love me?” That agonizing question, rooted in my inner shadow, kept persecuting me and made me run away from the very place where that quiet voice calling me the Beloved could be heard. (29)
“Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper.”