“Taken” is a loaded word that is used by some to indicate approval, acceptance, and delight in a romantic sense. As in “I was taken by her beauty” or the response of a woman to a man who is being hit on, “I’m taken.” I have often wished I was “taken.” But alas, I rarely have been in this romantic sense. In order to cope with this lack, which I perceived as a HUGE lack, I tried to think about being “taken” by God. I even participated in the True Love Waits campaign. But honestly, it didn’t work. I have come to think that the reason for this is two fold.
- What does it mean to be a sexual being? Unfortunately I think our society has largely convinced us that being a sexual being means having sex. I can’t remember where I first read it so I can’t give credit where it’s due, but I distinctly remember the first time I came across the idea that I can love people as a sexual being without being physically sexual with anyone. I have thought about that for a long time. The idea is perplexing to me having been brought up after the sexual revolution and within a society that is pretty sex crazy. But I admit, I have not yet resolved this idea mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. That said, I am starting to see it is true. So if by using the word “taken” to communicate something about who God is to me and, more importantly, who I am to God but had a largely physical ideology of being a sexual being, it was destined for failure before I began. God works in and through the physical world, but God is not a physical being. God is Spirit. Not ‘a‘ spirit, just God is Spirit. Maybe being a sexual being means loving the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself. Simple, but not easy. And this leads me to my next point.
- How can I be taken if I am not beloved? If I am to love my neighbor as myself, but I don’t love myself, how can I love my neighbor? Not very well at best. The word beloved is used quite a few times in the Bible to refer to God as well as to refer to lovers many associate as a metaphorical description of the church catholic (as in the church as the universal body of Christ, not the Roman Catholic Church). My favorite verse that uses this word is found in Song of Songs. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (S of S 6.3). I love this verse so much and it speaks to me so deeply that I purchased a ring that has these very words on it in Hebrew. And yet, I don’t think I have ever really believed this either. I have wanted it to be true. I have hoped that it was true. And yet I have been riven to despair because deep down I knew, or thought I knew, that there was no way it could be true. So if I was not beloved by God, I was not really taken either. But I surely didn’t understand that then and I am only on the precipice of understanding that now.
In Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved, he speaks to this idea of being “taken” as a being “chosen.” Stepping into the Presbyterian tradition, this is a loaded word for sure. I have much to learn in that regard so I am unsure if Nouwen’s use of the word will compliment the reform tradition or cross it, but I am not concerned with that here. As Nouwen goes through his thoughts on being “chosen,” he says, “In this world, to be chosen simply means to be set apart in contrast to others.” I agree with this statement. He goes on to say,
To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive choice, but a compassionate choice.
I have struggled with this idea without even knowing it. Firstly, I have a hard time accepting the fact that God accepts me. Secondly, I have a hard time excluding others. But Nouwen begs us to “not surrender the word “chosen” to the world.” And I must admit, I believe we have. And so I will pick these things up again, taken, chosen, Beloved, and attempt to chose “to celebrate my chosenness constantly.” I will try not to reject myself because to do that means rejecting what God has done. And hopefully, in doing so, I will be able to love God and love people more completely. After all, “the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 22.40)