THE ABIDING LIFE
The Desire to Know and be Known
By Gwen Sellers
The desire to be known. We all have it. "To know and be known" often comes up in conversations about companionship and community. The phrase makes sense. God is relational, as we see by the Trinity, the fact that He created us, and the way He made Eve for Adam. There is something about living out the fullness of humanity that requires other persons be involved. And part of that is being known. I have to say, though, that this being known thing has been an interesting journey for me.
Like many girls, I was a talkative child. I eagerly entered into conversation and loved telling stories. In academic or church group settings I've generally been one of the first to speak up in discussion. I yearned for deep friendships founded in quality conversations. But for several years in my early twenties, when it came to people knowing about me, I shied away. I put up a professional front and became fairly adept at deflecting personal questions. I didn't want to be known. My heart was wounded. I felt covered in shame and all I wanted to do was hide from the world and try to survive. I engaged in conversation and remained talkative in educational or professional settings. But it was meant as a barrier to protect my heart. I could tell people what I knew, but I didn't want to tell them who I was.
Some people who know me and read this will laugh because God didn't really let me get away with it. As professional as I tried to be, I've never been as apt as I would have liked to think in hiding myself. Emotions surface. That is true for everyone, but I seem to have gotten an extra dose of it. My face does not know how to lie. Being that I didn't necessarily want to be known, this used to bother me. Now I see it as gift. God simply won't allow me to hide.
What is an even greater gift is the way I now yearn to be known. At times I feel like there is this deep well in me simply waiting to be tapped. An inner voice beckons for others to ask, mine what is underneath, invite me to share my heart. In God's grace, I have many friends with whom I do share on a deep heart level. They know what to ask and eagerly listen. They have also expressed that they want to know me — pure and simple. They don't necessarily need to ask the right question to get something out of me. They just need to give me an opening, because I know they want to hear my heart.
This has gotten me thinking about how I interact with others. Do I invite them out of their shells? Do I desire to know them? Am I willing to take the time "to know"? It is a gift to me when others seek to know me; do I readily give that gift to others?
James 1:19 says, " Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." Strong's Bible Concordance gives, in part, this definition for the Greek used for "hear": "to attend to, consider what is or has been said; to understand, perceive the sense of what is said." In counseling, we talk about "active listening." This isn't merely hearing the words a person says, but truly understanding it. We attend to what is shared. We don't just know what they said, we know them in a more experiential way.
I need to ask the question in order to hear. But I've also found that I need to honestly answer questions in order for people to want to share. Unless it is in a formal counseling setting, it is very rare for a person to be willing to share important things — to be vulnerable enough to be truly known — unless the other person is also allowing herself to be known. The desire is always expressed as "to know and be known." The two go hand-in-hand. Having everyone know me isn't all that great unless I also know them. Conversely, I can't fully know others unless they also know me. The issue is one of trust. Knowing and being known is a mutual exchange.
It is intriguing to me how I see God interact with us in a similar manner. God provided Adam and Eve for one another, intending them to know and be known by one another. But He also wanted to be known by them and to know them. God is omniscient, yet in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after sinning, He asked the couple where they were. He was inviting them to be known. In Psalm 139 David affirms that God has "searched me and known me," he talks about the way God's thoughts are precious to him (i.e., how God makes Himself known to David), and then David invites "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139 is a beautiful picture of knowing and being known. In the New Testament, we see Jesus ask many questions. He did not just tell people who He was. He didn't even just tell them who He knew they were. He invited them to relate in a real way. He invited them to know Him and to be known by Him. It is in our relationship with God that we are most known. And it is in knowing Him that we have the fullness of life.
"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep." - John 10:9-15
Image Credit: cherylholt; Untitled; Creative Commons
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Published on 6-22-15