On Knowing & Being Known

How many people really know you?

I’m not talking about things like your favorite color or drink from Starbucks.  (I hope it’s espresso-based, by the way).  I’m talking about things like your greatest joys and dreams, your deepest fears and failures, and what’s going on beneath the surface.

I’ve started reading “Anatomy of the Soul” by Dr. Curt Thompson, and he has a phenomenal chapter called “As We Are Known” where he explores this idea with real depth.  In a word, he says that while we’re made for knowing – and being known by – God and others, we tend to fight this fiercely, and it leads to lives that are “safe” but unsatisfying.

Through a few case studies, he illustrates the choice we have to make.  We can base our relationship with God entirely on facts, reason, and ‘good behavior’, which makes us feel safe and less anxious, but also leads to a sense of isolation from him and others.  On the other hand,

If you allow yourself to be known by God, you invite a different and frankly more terrifying experience.  You are now in a position of vulnerability.  If you permit others to know you, they can make their own assessment of your worth… You grant them the option to love you or to reject you.  In essence, you must – you must – trust another with yourself.

I’m not sure about you, but a lot of what he says really captures struggles I have in this area.  If I’m honest, I like to keep people right where I want them: close enough for some sense of relationship, but far enough where they don’t truly see my flaws and ‘issues.’

At the same time, I want to keep moving beyond that into a life where I increasingly know people, and let them know me, even if it’s harder than playing it safe.

Medicine, and other performance-based cultures, do not encourage this, so we’ll need to keep making an effort here.  More accurately, we’ll need to keep putting our roots deeper down in the gospel.  Simply put, the gospel says that God loves and values me not because of how good or competent I am, but because of how good Christ was.  As I really ‘get’ that, I’m free to let you in on even my worst failures, knowing they’re taken care of and forgiven.  Others may think less of me for those failures while hiding their own, but I’m secure and able to let you know me.  That creates the kind of community we long for.

So, how many people really know you?

If the answer is “no one”, it may be that you need to re-engage God and, perhaps again, open yourself up to him in ways that are scary, but healing.  I pray that you will join me.

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About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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