Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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The Spiritual Practices of A Writer: Entering Fullness

July 3, 2020

Amy Malskeit

On Being Beloved

This morning I stepped into our back garden before I was fully awake. I had run downstairs quickly to let our puppy out so that her yips would not wake the rest of the house, and my eyes were barely open. The chill air grabbed hold of me, pulling me into wakefulness. The clouds were purple and gold with sunrise, the birds singing in full cacophonous chorus. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.

I realized with a clarity that reached beyond my tired mind that I was being invited to bear witness to a miracle: daybreak. Clouds were sliding from one hue to another like a kaleidoscope; birds were painting the air with song. Could it be that I was being dared to receive this all as a gift, to enter in to something I had done nothing to earn? And could it be that this was not a generalized, “for God so loves everyone else” gift, but a specific, “[We have been] chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” Dare I open myself to let this morning grace wash me anew? Dare I let the unbidden beauty of this new day do its work?

A foundational spiritual practice for any follower of Christ must be to lay hold of who they are because of Christ, and let that be the place from which they live. Although narrow, this is the path we must travel to find fullness. Henri Nouwen, in his book Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, asserts that, “The great spiritual battle begins—and never ends—with the reclaiming of our chosenness.”[1] The spiritual battle to claim and reclaim our belovedness is one that each individual must engage, and continue to engage as long as we draw breath.

But how does this become a spiritual practice specifically for writers? I have learned that there are particular questions I must ask as I apply myself to writing, that help me to engage this practice: Why do I write? Am I writing from a desire to garner an audience, to curate an image, to sound relevant, cultured, or erudite? When I write, what do I have to prove? Where am I enslaved by fear? Am I writing in the freedom as one who is called, chosen, and beloved? When I answer these questions, am I willing to face the poverty of my soul in the places where I am drawing an answer from anywhere but my maker’s gaze? Am I willing to fight the necessary battle, and ask others to fight alongside me? And am I willing to write anyway?

Nouwen’s impetus to write Life of the Beloved came from a deep friendship he had with a New York intellectual—a secular Jew—named Fred. As he struggled with what he would have to speak to a man so different from himself, Fred invited him to “Speak from that place in your heart where you are most yourself. Speak directly simply, lovingly, gently, and without any apologies. Tell us what you see and want us to see; tell us what you hear and want us to hear….Trust your own heart. The words will come. There is nothing to fear.”[2] I am heartened to see that Nouwen fought his own battles with claiming his belovedness, but he chose not to hide. He chose to write anyway, to make it a vulnerable offering, and in so doing, he struck a match in the darkness to remind us that we aren’t alone.

A few months ago I read an article by Lacy Finn Borgo, a spiritual director for children. The article was expansive, but it is the first sentence of her bio that continues to reverberate in my soul. It read: “I am an eternal being in whom God dwells and delights.” I began to speak that over myself, repeating it aloud like a name that had been lost, because it had. My name is Amy, which means beloved, but that’s not something I grew up believing about myself. But that’s ok. I’m learning that it’s not too late. Because each morning the sun rises without my help, and each day brings a new invitation for each of us to open ourselves more fully to this grace of being named.

[1] Nouwen, Henri J. M. Life of the Beloved. 10th Anniversary Edition, Crossroad 8 Avenue, 2002, p. 58.

[2] Ibid, p 25.

The featured image is titled “Solo Lady of Shallot” is (c) of Lancia E. Smith and used with her permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.


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  1. Nicole says:

    “… he struck a match in the darkness to remind us that we aren’t alone.” Oh this gave me goosebumps. I needed to read every word of this today. Thank you!

  2. Amy Malskeit says:

    Nicole, hearing that my words landed for you makes my heart so thankful. We all need that reminder that we are not alone, no? I’m glad I got to remind you today. May you cling to the reality that your belovedness IS, and cannot be lost or earned.

  3. Gary says:

    So beautifully written. Beautiful words are like the seeds of a garden. You plant them and tend them and watch them and one day ?
    Amy, your words produce even more seeds.

  4. Paul Schliep says:

    Beautifully written reminder of my identity in Christ. Good for me to hear in the early months of a life transition

  5. Helena says:

    “When I answer these questions, am I willing to face the poverty of my soul in the places where I am drawing an answer from anywhere but my maker’s gaze?”

    Oh my, yes.

    Some friends and I had a discussion recently about the difference between writing/creating TOWARD the answers to your questions (about your worth, your belovedness) and writing FROM the answers. There’s a world of difference, isn’t there? Thank you for this lovely reminder.

  6. Amy Malskeit says:

    @Paul, the good news never gets old, eh? I’m so glad this landed for you. Grateful to return the favor you’ve done me many times.

  7. Amy Malskeit says:

    @Gary, I love your metaphor, and it is so fitting around the theme of cultivating. Thank you.

  8. Amy Malskeit says:

    @ Helena, oh what the difference a preposition makes. Yes, there is a world of difference. Glad to be on the journey toward from, with you ;).

  9. I’m going to write that Sentence on my mirror. Thank you for your encouraging words!!

  10. Amy says:

    @Sarah I’m so glad those words resonated with you. You are so welcome!

  11. Amy Malskeit says:

    @Sarah I’m so glad those words resonated with you. You are so welcome!

  12. Amy Lee says:

    Amen. Ah, I love this.

  13. Amy Malskeit says:

    @Amy, thank you.

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