Henri Nouwen wrote the book “Life of the Beloved” to one of his secular friends, hoping that his friend and those of the same secular world could understand the spiritual life differently, more easily. Focusing on Matthew 3:16, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests in you.” He says, “The greatest gift my friendship can give you is the gift of your Belovedness. I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it myself,” (30).
While this book has changed people’s lives and perspectives on their own Belovedness, the initial reason for writing this book failed because it wasn’t impactful for Nouwen’s friend and the secular world. It didn’t bear the fruit that Nouwen was intending it to bear. It is easy to get fixated on the fruit that we don’t get to see grow, even when God is using us in ways other than we intended.
As Fellows, we get the privilege of serving our Nashville churches through working in their children and youth ministries. We get to cultivate friendships and trust with these kids, loving them the way Jesus loved us first, and earning the right to share the best love story of all time—the Gospel. We spend time with them at Sunday School and Youth Group. We get to take them to lunch, cheer for them at their sporting events, and attend their plays because we so desperately want them to know just how loved they are. We pray for them and with them, and we do all this in the hopes that they will meet Jesus.
It can be discouraging when we bear no visible fruit and see no change in these kids lives. In times of discouragement we must remember that we are God’s beloved and so are these kids. Their salvation does not rest on us youth group leaders but on the God who loves them dearly.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
Fruit isn’t something that grows over night, or in a week, or even in a month most of the time. Seasons will pass where we will bear no visible fruit. The people that we are loving and ministering to may never know the Lord in the time frame that our lives intersect. I’m remembering that I am God’s Beloved and by stepping into these kids lives I am doing the kingdoms work. And we can rejoice because our friends and family are God’s Beloved too.