Beloved

Over the past weekend I spent the weekend at the GO Conference in Worcester, MA. It was a meaningful, refreshing experience. I don’t know that I can say it was life changing, my temptation word after doing almost anything out of the ordinary. I still have my quirks, anxiety, and challenges to deal with. All the same though I am so grateful I went.

Now you might wonder at the meaning of my title, and no it is not a reference to the beautiful piece of American literature by Toni Morrison (though please go read it when you have the chance). The theme of the conference was Micah 6:8–

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

And a word that came up in a few of the speakers talks was the word beloved, used in different contexts, but it grabbed my mind. Because if you really think about it who do you earnestly seek justice for? Desire mercy for? Seek the best for? Those we find beloved. The challenge is though there are many people we do not find beloved. Even more so there are people that for decades and generations the Church has deemed as not worthy to be beloved. Churches that have historically excluded those who are different: women, children, the disabled, queer people, people of color and on and on and on. Yet the gospel is a gospel of inclusiveness, what has always been radical is that Jesus calls all of us his beloved. As Sarah Bessey mentioned in it’s early days Christianity was pooh poohed as the religion for women, children, and slaves, and yet that is part of the radical love and pull of Jesus.

That is hard though. In my own small world, I thought about my students. Probably the phrase I would most frequently use to describe them is “pain in my ass”; beloved for some of my students is a word I can’t fully wrap my mind around.

I loved when Bob Goff spoke, he shared a similar message in his own unique way: “Love everybody, always, and start with the people who creep you out.” He then proceeded to joke that he might be one of the people who creep you out.

For me beloved is a word that summarizes the GO conference, but there were so many amazing moments. Hearing different people honestly share their stories and perspectives. Hearing a conservative White Christian advocating for queer inclusion in the church while still speaking from a conservative perspective.

I loved hearing from older and younger voices. Being encouraged to share my voice even when it shakes. Meeting Sarah Bessey and being only slightly awkward and asking her to write in my book something encouraging about writing and her sharing this:

Laughing and crying over various speakers powerful stories. Seeing the amazing ways God works when we show up and love. Hearing men and women speaking. Getting a chance to simply be with His people in New England with a little more hope, tools and restoration. I do hope that if nothing else I remember I am beloved and that everyone around me is beloved. And meeting Bob Goff was pretty cool too, if anything he’s the happiest man I’ve ever met and I think if anything he’s even quirkier than how he comes across in Love Does, if that’s even possible.

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So though you may not have made it please remember: you are beloved. Don’t listen to any voice who says differently. I know that is how I see my friends and that’s why I have so many different people who I can call friend, I only hope that I can call everyone beloved as I move forward, even those people who creep me out.

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