Some people love getting to know new people while others are terrified at the thought. And then there are people like me. I enjoy getting to know new people, but have a sometimes crippling fear of rejection. What if they see how weird and quirky and lame I am and scoff at me? What if I say something dumb. What if I don't know what to say at all. Why would they want to be my friend when they're so pretty and kind and put together, and I'm...just imperfect little me. When I'm surrounded by people I already know love and accept me it's easier for me to meet new people and to open up. However, when I am the new one in a group I can come across as very quiet and reserved. Anyone who knows me will laugh at that, but it's true. I have a fear of not being loved and accepted for who I am. I think I am not alone.
When I was a single young adult, thinking about the idea of finding a future spouse, I remember having a deep desire, almost above all else to be known deep down, inside and out, all my good things and bad things and all the quirky things that make me me and to be accepted and loved unconditionally anyway and to know him in return. There was a deep fear within me that I would never find this, for as many great friends as I had had before I had never had to be as transparent and vulnerable as is necessary for a healthy, loving marriage. I had even run from relationships in the past for fear that if they really knew who I was I would not be loved and accepted but would end up hurt and rejected. I both feared being known and longed for it. So I did the only thing I knew to do and rejected them first.
Then I met Seth. Again. For the three hundredth time. (The first 299 times I wasn't interested in him, but then slowly came around.) We got married and immediately understood one another completely. Not. No matter how hard you fall for someone or how quickly (though as mentioned before I did not fall in love with Seth instantly, but in a much more gradual and beautifully slow process.) And that's what it is, a process. To know someone inside and out is not a static thing. It is constant. It is an ever growing, ever changing thing to know someone as they are and as they change. It is a beautiful, intentional and unintentional thing. I love that. The moment I stop opening up to Seth is the moment he will begin to lose who I am. I need to both let him know me, and seek to know him as well, and for him to do the same. This is how we grow together.
I believe that we inherently have a need to know others and to be known. I once told that to a friend of mine, but she disagreed with me. She told me that she had worked extremely hard in the past to keep others from knowing her, that she did not want to be known. This is often true. We get hurt so much that we decide it would be better not to be known than to be rejected and hurt. I don't think this changes the fact that we are made to know others and to be known however, but it brings up the complication that comes from living in a fallen world. In order to be known we must chose to be vulnerable. I think that deep down we do all have a need to know and to be known,
but that fear of being let down, hurt and used causes us to mask this
and build our defenses. We think we would rather be alone and be
protected than be known and be vulnerable. But what if we knew that we
would be loved, accepted and cared for? The only one that we can really trust in this way is Christ. The one who has known us from the beginning. "For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13" And again in 1 Corinthinas 13:12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in
part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
I believe we are known (loved, and forgiven) by God, whether we want to or not, and that we are made to know him and to
make him known to others. I believe this is, quite possibly, our
primary objective. I think that sometimes as believers we jump into "sharing the gospel" before we have really begun to "know him." And that is a fatal mistake. For when we begin to understand his nature, which is pure unadulterated love, we cannot then honestly adhere all the hatred and judgement, and misunderstanding which we tend to have towards unbelievers, to his name. For this is not of him. He somehow loves us unconditionally, despite all that we are, all that we believe or don't believe, and all that we have done, right where we're at. And yet he does all of this while not compromising even an iota. He simply draws us to his side and calls us to repentance. To turn from our old ways. He knew we would not understand this and sent his son as an example of how we should live, and yet this is still incomprehensible to us. And because we cannot comprehend it we insert our own ideas, feelings, and judgements, in his name onto all those who do not yet know him, often causing them to have no desire to know this God, and definitely not desiring to be known by him.
These two ideas (wanting to know others and be known; and knowing the Father and being known by him) may seem rather separate ideas, but I believe they're intricately connected. I believe that God uses our relationships on earth as a tangible example of his love for us. We show his love to others when we make him known, and we make him known by knowing, loving and accepting those he has put in our lives.
So where does that leave us? At the beginning I suppose, where we let down our guard little by little, trusting the Lord to have his way in our lives and allow ourselves to be known by others and in return to begin to know them as well. To love others outside of our comfort zones and open up the places we have left so well guarded.
I once had a great friend who was truly gifted at getting to know others, no matter their age or background and this is how she did it; she listened. She asked good questions and she listened to them, she really heard what they had to say. People want to be heard. They want to be known. I do to. They might just not know it yet.