I am writing this message from my home office. Like many of you, The Upper Room staff are sheltering in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been surprised by the level of anxiety that I’ve felt during these past weeks. I wake up in the middle of the night sure that I have the virus. I am unable to focus and find that my daily meditation practice has fallen off. It seems that my whole body is vibrating with the energy of fear. It is in this extraordinary time of crisis that we consider our belovedness.
A number of years ago I heard Henri Nouwen speak in the chapel at Scarritt Bennett Center. His lecture there eventually became the book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. I was in a difficult time, a “dark night of the soul,” struggling with childhood wounding, and feeling all alone in the world. Henri said, “The spiritual life starts at the place where you can hear God’s voice. Where somehow you can claim that long before your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your school, your church touched you, loved you, and wounded you—long before that, you were held safe in an eternal embrace. You were seen with eyes of perfect love long before you entered into the dark valley of life.” Soon after that, I found a recording of the lecture and listened to it over and over. As I listened, my troubled heart began to ease, to feel God’s presence with me in my pain, to know at a deep, deep level that I am beloved of God.
In this global pandemic, all of us, throughout the world, have entered into a “dark night of the soul.” We are in a new reality, facing a virus that humankind has never encountered before. People around the world are experiencing financial distress. We hear frightening, heartbreaking stories from around the world. And, still, the Spirit breaks through and reminds us of our belovedness. We see collaboration and cooperation across the nations of the world. The Earth receives a needed break from our constant polluting. We have a deeper knowledge of the perils of our ancestors and saints who have gone before us and showed us how to survive periods of world upheaval, economic hardship, and illnesses without cure.
In the midst of struggle and anxiety, we hold on to this message: No matter what, we are held safe in God’s eternal embrace. We were seen with the eyes of perfect love long before we entered into the dark valley of life. We are not alone. God is here before us, behind us, beside us, within us.
Hold on to the knowledge that you are God’s beloved, that, indeed, the whole creation is beloved of the Holy One who created everything.
I offer this blessing from God for you:
You are my beloved
On you my favor rests
Before you were imagined
I held your heart in mine.
You are my beloved
For you my love grows deep
Before, behind, within you I live
And you are mine.*
Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel.
* “You Are My Beloved” by Beth A. Richardson. Words and music copyright © 2019 Beth A. Richardson. Uncluttered Heart Music. CCLI Song #7130926. OneLicense Song #67650.
"Thank you for the creative teams [of The Upper Room] who are working together to share the power of prayer around the world. You have collaborated with everyone working from our homes to share the gifts of hope, love, grace, and peace." (Written in response to The Upper Room COVID-19 response efforts). View Jaqui's video contribution to the initiative, helping us create space and time for God in these anxious times.