She walked into the restaurant with that bubbly chatter that demands the entire room notice her. She didn’t appear to be looking for that attention. It just happened because of her personality and the fact that she was beautiful. On her heels was a friend, engaged in conversation with her.
I stood to leave my table and suddenly she paused, gasped, and moved quickly in my direction. She was clearly thrilled to see me. Problem was, I had never seen her before. I was like a deer caught in the headlights, all eyes now focusing on me–the object of her attention.
It was one of those moments when you have to choose between several equally awkwardly options: standing motionless in shock, sitting down quickly and looking around confused, or moving toward the person with equal excitement. I opted for the third choice.
We hugged enthusiastically, “Hi!! Susan!!! It’s so good to see you!!” She bubbled. I returned with, “It’s good to see you too!” as her hands rested on my shoulders and she looked into my eyes, “but I’m not Susan,” I added calmly.
She gasped, let out an, “Oh my Gosh!! I’m so sorry!!” (Insert “awkward few seconds” as she blushes) “You look exactly like Susan!”
We giggled, talked for a few moments and that was the end of my relationship with the beautiful young woman.
I am frequently mistaken for someone else–most frequently for a news reporter whom I have yet to meet. I’m always tempted to go with it and pretend to be her but my mouth is usually a split second ahead of my brain and I hear myself say, “No that’s not me. Don’t worry about it, it happens all the time,” and I miss the opportunity.
I could tell stories about times when I excitedly approached someone, only to discover it was a perfect stranger. I have made numerous embarrassing identity mistakes, including resting my arm and chin on the knee of someone other than my husband, reaching out to hold the hand of a young man who stepped into a circle where my husband–unbeknownst to me–just stepped out. We do things, thinking we ‘know’ someone, only to realize that we don’t know them at all or certainly not well enough to hug them, rest on their knee or hold their hand!
So how do I determine if I know someone or not? How do you determine if you know me? Obviously appearances alone are deceiving.
I believe that we ‘know’ someone when we are in transparent, unconditional and authentic relationship with them. I know my husband. My husband knows me. I don’t hide parts of my heart from him because I fear rejection or condemnation. If there is an ‘ugly’ part in my heart that I am struggling with, I open up to him about it, knowing with confidence that he will encourage me, fight for me, pray for me and walk it out with me. When my heart or spirit is moved by something, whether it is compassion for people in Japan or Haiti after their earthquakes, or the homeless man who I feel compelled to buy groceries for, or a child that is being bullied, I share my heart. If I am ecstatic about something good that is happening, maybe an opportunity in ministry or a friendship that is particularly blessing my life, I share it.
The safety that comes from this intimate relationship gives me the confidence that I ‘know’ Tim. Because I know him, I also know how he responds to things I share with him and this creates in me a trust that is not shaken by a bad day or a disagreement. We go through normal ups and downs in our marriage but because I know Tim, even in the hard times I genuinely respect him, love him and even adore him. That is relationship.
This brings me to the real question I’ve been mulling over… How do we ‘know’ God? This question was inspired by a comment someone made this week about Christians misusing the term ‘relationship with God’ and its importance. This individual stated that to teach relationship with God is not Biblical, and certainly not stated in the Bible.
As I processed his statement, being very aware that I have a relationship with God, through Jesus, I started to unravel what defines relationships. I even posted the questions on Facebook: “How do we ‘know’ someone? What does it mean if I ‘know’ you or you ‘know’ me?” The answers covered many aspects of relationship.
One woman responded: “I think there has to be some level of intimacy…I know that I “Know” my husband…but I can only truly “know” what my husband willingly “shows” me though.”
Another woman wrote: “I have heard it said that you cannot count yourself a friend until you have been invited to meet their friends. How can you “know” someone when you only get to hear about them through their own eyes?”
A gentleman added: “You can know someone by name, but you really know them when you know that you share something in common with them and know what it means to them. Then you know someone because you are connected to them by a common thread.” Another said that there has to be a connection.
All feedback was excellent, including the friend who wrote that it should always include an element of chocolate. But the one that resonated with me, based on the deeper question I was contemplating, was: “When spirit touches spirit, then we ‘know’ and ‘are known’. That is, the Spirit in your spirit interfaces with the Spirit in mine. Which often means (sadly) that rarely are we truly ‘known’, and never fully. (…)”
From a biblical perspective, if we look at God coming in the body of a little boy, to grow up so that He can know us, serve us and love us, we cannot deny the importance of relationship. Everything about the story of Jesus is relational. But that is God reaching to earth in relationship. Does it matter if we have relationship with Him now?
As I contemplated the question, the words of Jesus came to mind, “I never knew you…” I researched the word ‘knew’, as used in this context and it speaks of intimate relationship, the same as used when “Adam ‘knew’ Eve and she conceived…” and various other Bible references. This ‘knowing’ is one that requires selfless abandon, complete vulnerability and closeness. It requires, as one of the Facebook comments said, “spirit touching spirit”. That’s relationship.
A key element of relationship is trust and trust is not something we offer a stranger. To trust God, we have to choose to know Him—to let our spirits be touched by His Spirit, and know that our spirit does touch His Spirit—and for this to happen we have to spend time with Him. The way we spend time with Him is to know His story as written in the Bible and listen for His voice—hearing ‘His side’ of the story, so to speak—and taking Him at face value. When we see that He is who He says He is, He does what He says He will do, and He did in fact die so that we have life, that trust comes easily. Who wouldn’t trust someone who died for them?
While I can’t present a reference for a verse that says, “Thou shalt have a relationship with God”, the Bible clearly teaches this relationship. Everything Jesus came to do, everything He did, was about relationship. So, while I don’t have all the answers, I choose relationship and vulnerable trust in the One who chose to live a selfless life on my behalf.
When I see Jesus and run toward Him with the enthusiasm of the woman in the restaurant, I don’t want Him to say, “I don’t know you… You never invested in getting to know me.” I want Him to run toward me, throw His arms around me, and welcome me.