When our girls were growing up, their dad often traveled out of town for work. Over the years, the girls and their daddy developed a ritual for saying their farewells which they still observe today as the girls leave for college each semester or when it is time to say goodbye after a visit.
Each time they part, Steve will kiss the palm of each of his daughters’ hand and the girls will then hold their palm to their face for a moment while they say out loud:
Daddy loves me.
Then it is their turn to remind their daddy of their love for him. They kiss their daddy’s much bigger palm and he holds his palm to his face and repeats the reassuring promise.
Alex loves me.
Brookie loves me.
After wrapping them tightly in his arms for a final hug, Steve looks them in the eye and reminds them of his expectations for them. Each time, he says these words:
Be good, be strong, be brave!
You can imagine how adorable this ritual was when they were tiny and he had to pick them up for the goodbye hug. For me, it may be even more meaningful to watch now that they are 19 and 22. As independent young women, they still choose to go out into the world under the covering of their daddy’s blessing and love. He names them beloved and reminds them who they are and to whom they belong. They are good. They are strong. They are brave. His blessing and exhortation reminds them he expects them to remember who they are and behave accordingly.
As we were discussing this ritual the other night, Steve and I talked about the messages we received from our fathers, who are both now in heaven. We discovered we both still hear their voices in our heads sometimes. While my relationship with my father was complicated by his struggle with alcoholism, he instilled in me a strong belief in my ability to tackle any challenge and achieve my goals. From the time I was born, he delighted in me and told me I was smart and strong. According to him, there was nothing in this world I couldn’t be or do. Although he couldn’t defeat the demons which kept him trapped in self-destruction, I never doubted his belief in me. He and my mom named me well, perhaps the greatest gift we parents have to offer our children.
Throughout scripture, we are offered a similar blessing and promise from our Abba Father who names us Beloved. Repeatedly, in both the Old and New Testaments, God reminds us who we are and to whom we belong. In a variety of phrasing and in many different contexts, God tells His people to take heart:
Be brave. Be strong. Do not fear, for I will be with you.
God doesn’t promise life won’t be hard. He doesn’t promise we won’t have trouble and heartache. He does however promise, over and over and over again, He will never leave us. He will go before us and He will come behind us. We can be brave because we know our Mighty God has our back in every situation.
Because of God’s passion for us, we are named Beloved. We are good. We are strong. We are brave.
When we forget, we must remind one another until we remember who we are. Let’s choose to show up for each other and name each other well.
Hey friend, in case someone hasn’t told you in a while, let me remind you of your name today. You are good. You are strong. You are brave. And best of all, you are God’s Beloved.