Category Archives: Henri Nouwen

it’s not even a competition.


It’s a grey, wet Sunday evening in the Chicago suburbs. Somewhere close, someone’s gutter is overflowing, sounding strangely similar to the beloved creek outside my high school bedroom. The roommates are out doing something that probably involves watching football (is this even football season?), and I’m keeping company with music, tea, and a little N.T. Wright.

This week I spent three days “work nesting” as I added lamps and bookshelves and decorations to my new office. The first two days with my students were pretty much wonderful. I am grateful beyond words for everything about this job.

In the midst of it all I have continued to think about and be reminded of God’s love for me, sometimes in very odd ways. The other week, I watched my first ever episode of The Bachelorette. (Let’s ignore this.) (Seriously, I really don’t want to talk about it.) (Okay, fine. I was just so stinking curious.) It was what I can only describe as a train wreck: so gruesome that I couldn’t look away. Before I knew it I had watched three episodes! It’s like I lost all control! For those of you who care, it was the season with Emily. She’s a sugary sweet, beyond gorgeous, ridiculously skinny blonde from the South, and she’s wanting True Love. Anyway, she’s on this date with some personal trainer (I swear they’re all personal trainers), and they’re talking, and she says to him, “I really don’t want this to be a competition.” Um, really? You’re on The Bachelorette. And to the guy’s credit, he says, “Well, this is kind of a competition.” (Needless to say, she didn’t pick him.)

It’s such a crazy show. Several dozen men are vying for the attention and love of a single woman. The poor guys have no idea what she really thinks about them or how she feels about them in relation to the others. And it stands in such stark contrast with one of my favorite excerpts from Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved: “It is impossible to compete for God’s love. God’s love is a love that includes all people . . . It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love that we can experience this all-embracing, non-comparing love and feel safe.”

It is impossible to compete for God’s love. We create so many competitions in life: with coworkers, with classmates, with siblings, with that friend who seems to have it all together or that neighbor with the perfect front yard, or basically every girl whose body type or sense of fashion makes me think I should change something about myself. Competition is everywhere. Competition is normal.

And competition is insidious. It creeps into every section of my heart, convincing me that I must somehow compete and perform for God’s love, too, that I’ve got to earn the status of The Beloved. It is fueled by insecurity and sustained by guilt. And it’s exhausting.

And you know what? It’s not even a competition. God has loved me with an everlasting love, and has drawn me with unfailing kindness (Jer. 31:3). He loved me first (1 John 4:19). His love is so wide and long and high and deep that it surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:18-19), and I can’t be separated from this love by anything in the world (Rom. 8:39).

I know it’s super weird to get all that from an episode of The Bachelorette. Thanks for humoring me, and I promise it won’t happen again. May my poorly drawn comparisons leave you with one more little reminder that you are so, so loved.