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Posted by Deborah Woo on


As I approached my thirtieth birthday in December, I was anxious a big existential crisis might hit. I kept thinking, “Well, I didn’t really have a quarter-life crisis at twenty-five like a lot of my friends did, so I’m probably overdue…” 

But the last few years have been full of a lot of big questions and changes. I left my job at City Year and wondered if I was done with non-profits because of how burned out I was. The death of a college roommate raised all sorts of questions about life, death, and the meaning of it all. There’s been a lot of upheaval within my social circle, with shifting dynamics in small groups and individual relationships. My responsibilities at The River have grown and I’m on the brink of being done with my M.S. in leadership studies. 

Copyright: oneinchpunch / 123RF Stock Photo

I constantly wonder how it all fits together, what God’s plan is, if I’m ever going to have a family of my own, and if, in the end, my life will have had any sort of significant impact.

In the midst of those swirling questions, I feel like God has been teaching me a lot about letting go of my plans and learning to trust his timing. But, in this season, as we have reflected on what it means to be the beloved and chosen of God, I am also learning to recognize the brokenness underlying some of these questions.

I’ve always bristled at the adage “No one can love you until you love yourself.” It’s supposed to encourage me to know my worth and not settle for less than I deserve, but I often find the phrase counterproductive. The pain of rejection and not measuring up is usually amplified by a sense that it is my own fault for not being confident in who I am and what I bring to the table.

The idea of needing to accept my own belovedness is similar, but it strikes an entirely different chord within me.

I do tend to define myself in terms of how others see me. I don’t find my worth in other people, yet I rely on them to convince me of my belovedness.

As theologian Henri Nouwen writes in Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, “Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire?”

I strive to be a helpful, reliable person on work teams and in relationships because I think if people need me they will continue to want me around. And as long as they want me, I have value.

But that’s not the way it works with God.

Lately I’ve been playing the song “Control,” by Tenth Avenue North, a lot to remind me of this. The chorus and bridge say:

God, you don't need me
But somehow you want me
Oh, how you love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go, oh

God, you don't need me
But somehow you want me
Oh, how you love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give you control

Oh, you want me
Somehow You want me
The King of heaven wants me
So this world has lost its grip on me

God doesn’t need me, but still he wants and chooses me. He loves me, just as I am.

This assurance doesn’t make the questions of who I am and what I am meant to do disappear. But as I start looking inward instead of outward for my belovedness, the pressure to figure it all out decreases.

I don’t need to hold onto my plans, my illusion of control, my grasping for what I think will be significant in people’s eyes.

The King of heaven sees and wants and loves me.

I am the beloved and chosen of God.




Deborah Woo has been attending The River since 2014. She is a Bay Area native who grew up attending First Covenant Church Oakland, and has a bachelors in psychology from Azusa Pacific University. Deborah moved to San Jose to work for the nonprofit City Year, where she spent six years providing interventions and after-school programming for students in East San Jose, and professional development for AmeriCorps volunteers. She is working on an organizational leadership masters degree through Northeastern University online and joined The River staff team as children's ministry assistant in fall 2016. She finds great joy in seeing the world and faith through the eyes of the youngest members of our wonderful community. 


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