Posted: 23 Feb 2012 07:04 AM PST
"And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased'" (Mark 1:11).
Imagine you're at a baptism. Not a shimmering, mega-church event, but a backwoods river revival led by your fervent (some say crazy) second cousin. You feel God's tug as you brave the tide. Suddenly your cousin pulls you under, water rushes over, you rise gasping for breath, the sky opens with a brilliant presence, and the Spirit descends upon you. Then the clearest, most loving voice you've ever heard says, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Would you ever need more? If God were to part the skies, enter your heart, and say, "My beloved child! I am utterly pleased with you!" could the approval of other humans ever compete? How did this affect Jesus? How would it affect you?
During Lent we're called to sacrifice, to go deep. This passage from Mark made me wonder. How would I act if I truly knew that God was pleased with me? Could I give up seeking praise from others? I've spent a great portion of life seeking approval, getting a compliment, or somehow leaving a mark so that other people may be well pleased. In an era when corporate empires are built on how many people "friend" you, it's easy to be swept into that tide and believe it's the only thing that matters.
Wanting to please others is not necessarily a bad thing. God molded us to consider our impact on the world to help prevent us from doing something harmful. Feedback from others is also how we learn. The problem is that needing approval can be addictive, and no matter how much applause we get, for many, it's never enough. At my weaker moments, it's made me betray who I am or even deny what is right just to get the nod of approval.
So I ponder the impact of that baptismal moment. Christ was told beyond all doubt that he was beloved, that God was very pleased with him. This was not a ticket to an easy life where everyone liked him. Instead, God's devotion was so overwhelming that Jesus could love others with no requirement to be loved back. It was a baptism of faith so profound, he could speak truth no matter the outcome; he could do right, no matter the cost. And the truth he spoke was that God loves us all unconditionally. As hard as it is to understand, we are also God's beloved. Do we need anything more?
Lord, may I take you in. May I open my heart to your love that surpasses all understanding, so that there is no empty space left to fill, no unquenchable need to get approval or seek praise from others, only the desire to please you, God, and to love as I am loved. This Lent, I pray to brave the tide. Amen.
Patrice Donnell, member of Marble Collegiate