Introductory Note:

These three devotions and reflection questions are from Renovaré’s newest print resource— a devotional called From the Inside Out Journal (available December 2023) that can be used on its own or alongside Renovaré’s free e-course, From the Inside Out. In this section, we look at the question “What is my picture of myself?” and invite Christ to help us redraw whatever parts of our self-portrait need his tender revision. 

Grace Pouch
Content Manager
November 2023

1. You Are Beloved 

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10NIV

Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. — Henri Nouwen

Your existence brings God great joy. He created you in love, and he delights in your company. Prophets, angels, the writers of Scripture, and even the sights and sounds of nature declare that God loves you with an everlasting love. God the Son came in flesh, saying, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9, NIV). The Lord’s love for you is rock solid. Why would you ever doubt it? 

Experiences that mock, dehumanize, or abuse communicate a different message — that we aren’t lovable. When life gets terribly hard or painful, do you wonder if God has withdrawn his love? Though God’s love for us is unshakable, our ability to sense his nearness and affection can be slowly cracked — or violently shattered. Even Jesus expressed this human sensation from the cross (see Mark 15:34). 

But nothing that happens to you, and no voice besides God’s own, has the final word on who you are. Carefully putting the pieces of your belovedness back together requires returning to the fundamental truth of your identity — tuning out the other voices and choosing to trust the sacred voice that calls you Beloved.” 

Reflect + Journal

Thieves, priests, rulers, outcasts, invalids, old people, and little children — what do they have in common?

They all received loving attention from Jesus. His words and actions said to them, You, too, are God’s beloved.

If you’re honest, who do you find it challenging to see as beloved by God? Is it the poor? Or maybe the rich? Is it those who have done you wrong? Is it people who oppose the ways of God? Try getting this off your chest in prayer: Lord, I have found it hard to imagine your love extending to __________. Help me to see them as you see them. If God helps you to see anyone differently today, make note of it here.

2. You Are Bent

The desire to do the good lies close at hand, but not the ability. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Romans 7:18b – 19NRSVUE

Scripture describes man as so curved in upon himself that he uses not only physical but even spiritual goods for his own purposes and in all things seeks only himself. — Martin Luther

The truth about you and me is that we are God’s beloved image-bearers. But to some degree, we are bent—inclined toward selfishness. 

The love and focus and energy we’re meant to share with God and others gradually turns inward — elevating our own opinions, focusing on and magnifying our own wants and needs, clawing and manipulating to get our own way. The bend in our nature pulls us away from the One who calls us beloved. We lose sight of the truth. We live beneath our humanity. 

It is good to love and care for yourself, but making yourself the center and god” of your life is ultimately destructive. Consider the Prodigal Son from Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:11 – 32). Set on seeking his own pleasure, he demands his inheritance and leaves his family. He chases happiness far from home, where he indulges himself nearly to death. Though his own best interests are his main concern, a deepening selfward focus makes him lose sight of what is actually good for his body, mind, and spirit. He doesn’t see that his choices are ruining his life until he’s living with a herd of pigs and longing to eat the slop from their trough.

Reflect + Journal 

Maybe your story looks similar to the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable, or maybe there are other ways the bend” shows up in your life. Write down some of the problems you’ve personally experienced from a selfward focus in these areas:

  • Relationships
  • How you use resources
  • Your to-do list
  • Where your thoughts tend to go when you’re stressed 
  • How you interact with God (or not)

3. Your Invitation to Be Unbent

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:12 – 13ESV

To be a Christian is to be on a journey — from the pigpen of self-rule to the outstretched arms of a loving Father. — Dallas Willard

Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well. — Julian of Norwich, recalling the words Jesus spoke to her

What God wants for you is freedom from the bent desires and twisted ideas that drive you away from him and into self-inflicted troubles. God is like the Father in the Prodigal Son story, longing for your return. God welcomes you as you are,” but he has plans to restore you to the fullness of your humanity. He wants to unbend you — not because you are unlovable as you are, but because he sees the brokenness and pain caused by your curved-in, self-focused, and self-directed ways. He wants you to have the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19NIV)! 

The unbending process can be slow and uncomfortable, but God provides all that is needed to unfurl you into the flourishing person he created you to be. 

Reflect + Journal

God feels toward each one of us as a mother feels toward her own dear child. When the child is struggling, falling — even making terrible and hurtful decisions — a mother’s heart is full of love. She wants her child to have freedom, peace, and wholeness.1

What joy or peace has your life been missing due to self-focus? Can you imagine the freedom God wants for you? Write down a few things that you envision in an unbent version of yourself.

  1. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love Recorded by Julian of Norwich, Anchoress at Norwich, trans. Grace Warrack, (London, England: 1901; Project Gutenberg EBook, September 2, 2016), LXI, ↩︎

Excerpt from section three of From the Inside Out Journal: Thirty Devotions for Becoming More Like Jesus, copyright © Renovaré 2024.

Image: Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt van Rijn (circa 1620 – 69, etching, pen and ink.

Text First Published December 2023 · Last Featured on November 2023