This morning in Henri Nouwen's book, Life of the Beloved, he was talking about the difference between being the beloved and becoming the beloved -- which is really the difference between knowing intellectually that we are chosen and blessed and tenderly cared for, and actually believing that, feeling that, and operating out of that deep inner understanding.
I am blessed, I think, with the intellectual understanding that I am beloved. But it seems to me -- and it's clear Nouwen agrees -- that the job of becoming the beloved, of knowing it at the deepest level of being, is always going to be a bit of a work in progress, and perhaps one of the key challenges of life on the spiritual path.
That said, I will also add that there's something about giving that helps propel us down that path. This is the quilt I created for my daughter's 25th birthday. And there was something about re-visiting each of those years of her life, remembering both the difficulties of those years and the wonder of them, and then stitching it all together, that not only helped me express my deep affection and gratitude for all the gifts she's brought into my life, but also helped me understand how I too -- with all my flaws and challenges -- might be beloved.
... which makes me think of those final lines in the prayer of St. Francis:
"For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."
... and somehow that, in turn, makes me think of the last time I had that most amazing sense of feeling beloved, which was when I found myself on my knees in Assisi, in front of the tomb of St. Francis.