It was a shimmering rehearsal dinner, the headwaters of which were most certainly in Eternity.
Cherie and I were basking in the midst, poignantly aware of the premium of the joy between us. You know how it goes: weddings can be a charged mirror reflecting back the current state of the union. We’ve attended our share where the reflection was mostly sorrow in our own marriage and the temptation to camp in resignation—or worse, cynicism. But over the last few years we’ve received the grace to tend to deep recesses of pain, and we were sincerely refreshed to not only be seated together, but actually enjoying each other deeply as well.
Yet Father had much more intended for that night beyond a milestone for our marriage. He had ordained it to bring a revelation that would change the course of our lives.
The choicest wine flowed, but even more, the choicest stories: stories of daring, risk, and deep redemption. Family and friends honored the couple with words of profound affection, honor for obstacles overcome, and the kind of faithful knowing and seeing that forms the texture of our deepest longings.
As the story-telling drew to a conclusion, we were all caught up in the wonder and delight of the major theme: Love wins.
The bride, Abbey, was positively radiant. Not since beholding Cherie as she walked down the aisle at our wedding fourteen years before had I seen a bride with such an effervescent glow. Now at the close of the evening, she stood alongside her husband-to-be, shimmering in the light of God’s movement toward her and in her and through her.
What could she possibly say in response to all the love and stories shared that evening?
There was a rich pause.
Then, in a moment flush with eternity, she slowly scanned the room, her countenance brilliant, and made eye contact with every witness present.
What she then said changed my life forever.
“You are all my favorite.”
Her tears of goodness and delight glistened in the dancing candlelight.
“You are all my favorite.”
And it was true. Because of who Abbey is and who she has allowed Father to be for her, it is sincerely true: we are all Abbey’s favorite. But there was more: Abbey was also a holy conduit for my Father as He brought a revelation infused with power from the Kingdom of the Heavens.
My Father was saying this truth to me and gracing me to know it to be simultaneously true for each of us.
“You are all my Favorites,” He said. Then He made it personal.
“You are my favorite, Morgan. YOU are my favorite.”
“You are my favorite, Cherie. YOU are my favorite.”
“You are my favorite, (say your name, fully, right here, right now. Risk). YOU are my favorite.”
Hear the voice of your Father as He truly is, not as you have learned Him to be.
It is this singular reality of His heart for us that makes us worthy of His love and belonging.
Not what we do, but who we are to Him. His favorite son.
In Matthew 3:17, in the wake of Jesus’ baptism, Father breaks with protocol and His audible voice quakes over the earth. He calls out,
Jesus! You are my beloved son! You make me so happy!
For most of my life, the word “beloved” consistently fell flat, feeling as attractive as shopping at the mall. It’s a word overused by Hallmark and invoked obliquely at weddings. The religious spirit has hijacked it, along with so many other Kingdom treasures that were meant to buoy our hearts in turbulent seas. I confess the innumerable worship songs I’ve sung, weddings I’ve attended, and cards I’ve read with the word “beloved” without ever connecting with its true weight and possibility.
The only way around the presumed familiarity, or through it, is to peel back the religious layers and get to the Reality that the word is meant to represent. In fact, this is our call with all of the words of Scripture: to excavate them until we experience Jesus with the startling, inviting, and disruptive freshness that is His essence.
Dallas Willard describes the effect of Jesus’ words when they are heard accurately:
Jesus and His words have never belonged to the categories of dogma or law, and to read them as if they did is simply to miss them. They are essentially subversive of the established arrangements and ways of thinking. That is clear from how they first entered the world, their initial effects, and how they are preserved in the New Testament writings and live on in His people. He himself described the words as “spirit and life” (John 6:63). They invade our “real” world with a reality even more real than it is, which explains why human beings then and now have to protect themselves from them.
One way to hear the words afresh is to explore their connotation in the original language. Back to Matthew 3:17, we find the Greek word for “beloved” (agapētos) to connote
“Favourite, esteemed, dear, worthy of love” (Strong’s G27)
Now revisit the weight of Father’s words to Jesus. He is saying,
“Jesus! You are my very most favorite! You are my favorite!”
And then in John 17:23, Jesus insists that we know with our whole being that the intensity of Father’s love for Him is EXACTLY what the offer of the Gospel is for you and for me.
It’s what John the Beloved understood. It’s why he took very personally the identity as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”(John 13:23). It is the revelation from which he lived and breathed and found his being unto the very end. No wonder he was the last of the twelve disciples to walk the earth, having endured the brutal death of each of his closest friends. No wonder he was one of four chosen to unveil the narrative of Jesus’ life. John owned the identity of being Jesus’ favorite, not to the exclusion of others but to actually incite each of us to own it as well.
No doubt, living in a broken and embattled world threatens to steadily erode our belief in God’s intimate knowing, availability, and pursuit. It’s brutally hard to hold on to being His favorite in the midst of sorrow, trial, and loss. Moreover, one of our enemy’s greatest aims is to undermine all revelation of the Father’s love. Yet when we receive this revelation, it becomes the abundant fuel for us to prevail over every adversity. The revelation of our identity as his favorite is the high tower from which we can love, risk, battle, and live a victorious life, a victorious life that transcends circumstances and is not contingent upon outcomes.
That rehearsal dinner was a celebration of a gallant couple—overcomers. And it was an exhilarating celebration of the Glorious One who is authoring their story and ours. But it was more. It was a rescue, a re-orienting, and a saving act of our loving Father for me. And I sense His fierceness that I am to pass it on to you. It was for YOU.
You are His favorite.
YOU are His favorite.
You are the one Jesus loves.
You are the one Father loves.
You ARE His favorite.
Receive it today. Own it. Write it on your doorframes and the deepest bedrock of your heart. Reach for it when you go to sleep and when you rise. Reach for it as your first daily act, as a courageous declaration of belief. Proclaim it until you have found yourself immersed in it as Reality. And let it have its way. Allow Love to lead you into territory you never thought possible.
Scripture says that soon in fact (1 Peter 1) the day is coming when the wine will flow once again (Isaiah 25:6), and thrilling stories will be shared at the great wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9); and your Father will run toward you at your arrival on that day, full of strength and tears to celebrate you (Luke 15: 20-32).
He’ll say, “Welcome home, son. Welcome home. We’ve been waiting for you. You are my favorite, and you make my heart so very happy.”
If we will receive the grace to believe it, it will change everything.
A Risky Prayer
Father, the Scriptures say
Ask, and it will be given to me.
Seek, and I will find.
Knock, and the door will be open.
Father, I confess that to believe I am Your favorite is a tremendous risk.
But I recognize that the risk and cost of not believing in far greater.
I give You access to my heart afresh. I give You permission to speak into this particular place.
(Pause for some time and think of five particular things in your life that you are truly grateful for. Write them down. Consider each of them, from the heart.)
What is it You want to say to me, Father?
What is in the way of me believing?
Is it true? Am I truly Your favorite?
After sitting with God over His personal words to you, consider reading Romans 8 in The Message afresh from the place of revelation as God’s very most favorite:
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and sons. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!…
He knows us far better than we know ourselves…We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what [his children (Insert your name here. Say it out loud.)] should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins… None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing, absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Excerpts from Romans 8, The Message)
Want to dig deeper?
George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons. Read The New Name and Sonship.
This blog is dedicated to my editor, true companion and sunrise, Cherie. She makes Become Good Soil possible as the greatest champion of my heart. And as Chief Life Officer of our home, it’s a supernatural act that she can make time to fight for my heart, provide life giving editing and partner with me to bring this message to you. I confess, while this particular message, You Are His Favorite, is a newer revelation to me, Cherie has received it far earlier and far deeper than I. Truly, it must be said, the message above is the Father’s, entrusted to neither Cherie nor I, but to our union. I turn and cheer her on and give her courageous heart my applause. Thank you, Cherie. For believing.