We all want to be known.
The spring has come to Chicagoland, and every new season in a new house yields both surprise and intrigue.
The phrase, “oooh…” has been uttered at irises, unexpected, poking through the landscaping.
So has the phrase “What in the world?” to weeds, smells, and other assorted revelations.
My wife Holley spent the spring entry period battling a wicked sinus infection, a fact she shared with the walking parents in our neighborhood who pass by every morning with bleary-eyed kids in tow, headed to school. Our daughter, tall and wild and graceful, steps out the door as well to join the fray.
The weeks passed and antibiotics did their due diligence, until standing on the porch one morning a walking parent – a mom that we talked to often – saw us and said:
“Are you feeling better?”
Behind this perceived pleasantry is a hint of something more. We are part of a network, a neighborhood of houses and lives and spirits. Our kids go to the same school and we share geography, taxes, and sidewalks.
In that moment, a great secret was revealed: we were in some sense known.
The great question of humanity is told in the poetry of Genesis 2 – it is not good for humankind (ha’adamah or “man”) to be alone.
Alone is a word that seems to say “single” or “solitary” or “abandoned.”
Alone in the Hebrew is about “isolation” and being “cut off.”
The great move of God to create humanity in two parts of his nature – male and female – is that it gently salves the hunger to be known.
Man and woman know each other – intimately, yes, but also deeply personally. They are the resolution to each other's "alone."
Mankind and God also know each other – the present personal God walking in the garden, and eventually asking “Where are you?”
God is not oblivious here.
God is pressing deeper into the persons he created.
Where are you?
How are you feeling?
What’s going on with that job?
We resonate with the “alone” aversion from Genesis because we acutely feel the drive and desire to be known in our own lives.
We don’t really want presence, which is what social media and casual acquaintances provide.
We want to be known as we are, for who we are, and we long for someone to enter into that space and be known by us as we are.
Psalm 139 offers a beautiful, poetic construction of this reality – starting with God’s searching of a person (139:1), a confession of the post-it notes of knowledge we have regarding God (139:14), and ending with a joint exploration of man that brings about knowledge (139:23-24)
We long to be known because we are made to be known – both by God and others. The dance is reciprocal, as well. We give and we receive.
Turn. Step. Turn. Step.
We allow ourselves to be known to those who desire to be known in return. Anything other than that is a new form of alone – namely abuse and codependency.
The issue of "known" is often the most debilitating factor in our discussion of racism and sexism. We often see “woman” or “black” or “white” or “Republican/Democrat” as a category, rather than a person.
All are made human. All are made to be known. All have the capacity to know us.
Knowing a stereotype, a generalization, or a sketch isn’t the same as knowing a person. Our reconciliation efforts will end in brutal poverty if we cannot acknowledge the places where we assume knowledge but all we have is a flimsy sketch – of God, of others, and even of ourselves.
Truly, to enter into the greatest commandment – Love God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself – requires knowing ourselves and being known.
We come to know the God we are to love.
We come to know the neighbor we may hate or fear.
None of the knowledge above comes without our deep and pervasive knowledge of ourselves– the place where we ground our love of both God and neighbor.
Knowing is reciprocal – we both know and are being known – and that is the construction of beauty we seek in social media, relationships, professional posturing, and every relationship to which we have access.
Today, who knows you? Who are you inviting in, giving the keys to an inner kingdom that draws you deeper into that beautiful state that you were created for all along?
Who are you giving the economy of your time, energy, and vulnerability to and are they returning that beautiful gift?
Today, our neighbor walked by and talked about her 40th birthday. These are the soundings of being known. While it may never grow to a friendship between our families, it is a whisper of what we are all made for.
We are made to be known.
PS: I'm excited to announce that I"ll be launching a podcast called "otherWISE" Monday, May 14th. The podcast is built to gather wise conversations about living well on the journey with Jesus. You can find it on iTunes as well as on my website - more podcast services will be added as well.
Feel free to follow @otherWISEpod on Instagram or Twitter for updates as we get ready, or check out the otherWISE page on Facebook. Peace friends!