A Big, Hairy (and Needed) Idea: Being Known
Let’s talk about being known. You. Me. Me by you; vice versa. What comes to mind? Notions of authenticity, community and “real” relationships? Or maybe 1984 all over again? Do you feel welcomed in or creeped out?
Let’s be frank. We’re really good at playing the game. At wearing the mask. At laying a beautiful cherry wood veneer over our rough cut particle board interior. For many a Christian, the idea of being known…well, it just ain’t gonna happen.
But it should. It must. We were neither made to be anonymous nor painted over. So let’s talk about being known. You. Me. But we’ll start with me.
What’s My Problem?
Let’s ask the obvious question. Why do I have a hard time being known? What’s so hard about swinging wide the iron (double-barred, reinforced) gates of my soul?
1. I Don’t Trust You
There, I said it. Oh, don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me. Yes, yes, there are some unsavory people with whom I wouldn’t share a stick of butter (you know what I mean). But more often than not, I’m just plumb scared of laying down my entirely-manageable-image and handing you…me. What if you squeal and jump back? I guess I’ll never know, because I don’t trust you.
2. Nothing to See Here, Folks
Come over to my house. Venture upstairs (not really, this is just an illustration). My bedroom door will probably be closed. Why? Because it’s usually the last place I try to keep organized. It’s the inner (cluttered) sanctum of my home. That bit I’d rather you not see.
As a pastor, I’d much rather let this little flock see the organized Bob. The disciplined Bob. But Jesus knows quite a lot about the closed doors. And let’s be honest: hiding the clutter isn’t dealing with the clutter.
This is just how I like it. Everything nicely controlled and curated. But gee golly it’s lonely. And unhealthy.
Relationships need trust to survive, so it makes sense that we would choose trustworthy people to be known by. But…relationships need trust to survive. Trust is the key that unlocks depth and substance in a relationship. If I fear risking trust, I will forever have several delightful acquaintances. But no friends. No brothers. And who wants that?
We also need people to know our junk. Now, I’m not suggesting we host a televised open house. Just that someone knows what’s behind the closed door. Sometimes those doors hide nothing more than disorganization. But sometimes they hide dragons.
And if we’re honest (which we ought to be), we need help dealing with it all.
Do you know how freeing it is to have someone walk through that door and stick around? To have someone say, “Oh yeah. I had a room like this. Let’s make some nachos and get to work.”
The Gospel and Being Known
Now let’s be clear. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or with fairy dust. It happens when the church lives and breathes in the gospel. A gospel-less church does well to hold the trust and keep the doors locked. Them church people can be nasty.
But that’s not who we are. We are gospel people. Let me explain.
1. You Are Already Known
When Paul tells the Galatians that they are “known by God” (Gal. 4:9), he isn’t suggesting that God knows about them. He knows them like a good father knows his little girl. Like a wife knows her husband.
He knows me this way. And He relates to me on these terms. I am not my job to God. I am not my carefully curated social image to God. I am not my spectacular or failed achievements to God. God purchased me like a speculator purchases an abandoned storage unit, but without the surprise. He grants me sonship with full disclosure of, well, me.
Talk about stability. About trust. Freedom.
But if I am already known by Him…
2. Gospel-Liberation from the Tyrant of Meaning Making
The gospel frees us from the tyranny of badly-drawn self-actualization. Of striving to become what we think other people would think highly of. Of slaving and scraping to carve out an identity that is attractive, likeable, and above all, worth something.
What a terrible way to start your day. With a moving target and unattainable standard.
But see, the good news is that God freely gives us everything we are scraping for: our Father’s love (Jn. 17:23); promise of a bright future (1 Jn. 3:1-3); freedom to live without the cloud of curse hanging over our heads (Gal. 3:13). And He does it simply because He wants to (Eph. 1:5). Because that’s the kind of God He is.
God graciously gives us an identity. We simply live in it. Not for it.
So if I’ve got all this, tell me again why I’m still holding back on being known by others?