Recently I stumbled upon a new song written by country artist Garth Brooks, The Courage to Love, and I was amazed to find how rich and moving it was. After listening to lyrics of the song I immediately thought of the connections it had with the line from Scripture at the Baptism of Our Lord where God the Father publicly pronounces, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22). In many ways God the Father is saying this to each one of us over and over again, “You are my Beloved.” Here are a few themes that I felt the song presented: identity, self-gift, dependence, acceptance and acknowledgement.
The song starts by saying that we have many different ways of measuring the worth of a man, and the first line that struck me was the third line: “but a man can’t learn a lesson that he don’t understand.” How true is that? We cannot learn a lesson if the objectives or goals are not shared or explained to us. Similarly, how can we come to learn who we are if we do not know or believe where we come from? God says to us: “You are my Beloved, and with you I am well pleased.” We must know, understand, and believe that we are eternally, unconditionally, and unmeritedly loved by God, who is Our Father in order to learn and see that we are His beloved sons and daughters, our identity.
Brooks writes that “any fool can pull the trigger, anyone can start a fight,” and then he drops this gem telling us that we are called to a higher calling: “but to love is so much bigger…then the truth must be the answer and love must be the light.” We are called to love, and to love selflessly! But we can only heed this higher calling and learn to love in such a way if we first believe that we are God’s beloved, and then we must intentionally choose to love – to love selflessly knowing that each person is a gift. The truth must indeed be the answer for we are told that “the Truth shall set you free” and that Truth lies in Our Lord who is also our light in the darkness (Jn. 8:32). So, Brooks got it right, and as we know from the Word, God who is our Father is love and this love is the light that shines through the darkness, leading us to the Truth, who is the Way and the Life, and who only says and does what He has been told by the Father.
After writing of the higher calling we are called to, Brooks identifies some things that are unique to humans and things that we oftentimes allow to hold us back from pursuing this higher calling. “The hardest thing you’ll ever do is tell someone you’re sorry; you’ll never be the bravest man if you can’t admit you’re scared.” Even though we ought to know and believe that we are God’s beloved we sometimes allow our sins, shame, and guilt to tell us we are not loved. We need to know and believe that God loves us not because of any good we may have done. We did not earn His love. In fact, we can never earn His love. He just does. And, we need to believe that He loves us as we are – the sinful people that we are. Once we can accept and believe that God truly loves us as we are we may come to love ourselves and others with a similar love – a love that is not dependent upon any good others may do to us, but rather a love that is the fruit of deep appreciation and profound gratefulness for the love that was first shown to us by Our Father.
Finally, Brooks writes that the strength that enables us to carry out this higher calling “comes from somewhere high up above.” That’s it, folks. Everything traces back to God. All that we need to carry out this greater calling to love is found in God the Father, who loves us as we are, we who are His beloved. Believe it: “You are my Beloved, and with you I am well pleased.”