Wilderness Love

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)

Jesus needed the wilderness. Jesus came out from the city into the wilderness. Before he could start his ministry, something Jesus needed was to be found in the wilderness.

He had lived for thirty years in Nazareth with his father and mother, working as a carpenter. Jesus had held down a job, provided for his family, worked with his dad, and honored his mother. But there was a timing, a moment in time, where he must have sensed that it was time to leave all that was familiar—his family, his house, his friends. Jesus was searching for something that was not yet complete in his life.

It was time to leave the city and journey into the wilderness. Jesus came searching for an experience that could only be found out there. Jesus needed something deeper from his heavenly father.

Jesus came for a baptism, but not a baptism of confession or repentance, for he had never sinned. Jesus came for a baptism of the Holy Spirit bathed in love!

Jesus is baptized with these words, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Up to this time, Jesus has never performed a miracle. Jesus has never walked on water. Jesus has not yet gone to a wedding feast to become a connoisseur of wine. Jesus has not paid anyone’s taxes with a fish.

Except for a brief story of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:42-50) we know of nothing spectacular in the first thirty years of his life. The affirmation of the father is based entirely on his love for his son. There is no qualifier. There is no attribute mentioned, only a loving statement of the father’s unearned love toward his son.

The affirmation of the Father for his deeply loved Son is the affirmation of God toward each of us. Each of us is beloved of God! We are loved! God cherishes us because we are created by him and for him. No qualifiers. Just as Jesus had done nothing to earn God’s favor, we are also the beloved to him.

In his classic work, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen writes,

You are beloved…It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout, ‘You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody—unless you can demonstrate the opposite. These negative voices are so loud and persistent that it is easy to believe them. That’s the great trap. The trap of self-rejection. Over the years I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection…When we come to believe the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions…Being the beloved is the core truth of our existence. (p. 31~33)

We struggle with this unqualified love because we don’t love ourselves. We all have this protective barrier of shame that disconnects us from ourselves—We don’t like the way we look, the way we talk, the way we work, the color of our skin, the size of our body, and thus we cannot receive God’s belovedness.

Shame is the “fear of disconnection.” Shame is saying “if they only knew who I really was and what I’ve done, they would hate me.”

We cover our self-rejection with shame. This shame handicaps our relationships, this shame insulates us from hurt, or so we think.

And our heart just dies!   We kill our hearts with shame.

But the message to Jesus from his father, and the message to all of us is that shame can be broken. And the only way shame is broken is through love—love from God. This love is unqualified and unconditional.

There is a voice from heaven for each of us. “You are beloved.” It is a soft gentle voice. God wants you to know that you are intimately loved as his unique creation. Listen for that gentle voice today.

On the Road,

Steve

The Road Less Traveled