To Know and Be Known
A little while ago, I was reading an article about Baby Jessica. As you will likely recall, “Baby Jessica” was an 18 month old baby who fell into a well, and remained there for two and a half days as a team of rescue workers raced against time to pull her safely out of the well. I remember all the media coverage surrounding Baby Jessica’s story. I remember there were prayer vigils held, asking God to keep her safe while she was in the well, and to allow for a safe rescue. I remember seeing footage of the many, many supporters who rallied around Baby Jessica’s family, keeping watch with them as they waited…sometimes very anxiously…for their baby girl to be pulled from her darkened tomb 22 inches below ground. I remember hearing reports about Baby Jessica’s medical condition as the minutes and hours ticked by, and the collective sighs of relief as the reports came back that, despite everything, Baby Jessica seemed to be alright. Baby Jessica belonged to the world. She was everyone’s baby.
Baby Jessica is now 21 years old, and a lot has happened in the world since she fell into the well and was subsequently rescued after the heroic efforts of a team of very dedicated people. Still, it seems to be a story that is timeless. It is still moving to hear about a group of people banding together to save the life of one little girl, and there is some wonder in knowing that an entire world watched, keeping vigil for that little one’s safety.
You have to wonder…why did we care so much? Why is the life of one person…one person among billions…so important? What makes people take risks to save the life of another, especially when the risks may outweigh the benefits? Why?
If you ask the woman still known as Baby Jessica, she would tell you that it is because we all want to believe that, if we were in that same condition…helpless, frightened, without any hope of rescuing ourselves by our own efforts…then others would rally to help us, just as they did for her. We want to believe that someone would make the valiant effort to do what seems impossible, and pull us out of our respective wells and lead us to safety.
Hmm. I think she is on to something. I think we all have an innate desire to know others, and be known. We all want to believe that, even in this vast, endless universe, we are important. Not in the sense of a collective importance, but we are each uniquely treasured, uniquely valuable, uniquely important to someone. Important enough that someone would risk their life, even lay it down, for us.
As a Christian, I have grown up with the belief that I am important to God just because God loves humans collectively. My church upbringing taught me that if God has something for me to do and I am reluctant to do it, He will just find someone else to do the job, because He can work through anyone. There is some truth in that, but the taste it left in my mouth was bitter. The message was, “You are not really all that important to God’s plan. He can just find someone else to fill your shoes. He didn’t make you all that special.” I grew up with the sense that Christians had a “We are Borg” way of thinking. As soon as one becomes a Christian, they must assimilate to the un-uniqueness of their new found faith, and accept that…despite all their desire for the contrary…they are not unique, specially gifted, or even necessary to God’s plan.
As I grow in my faith and in my understanding of God, I am learning that God is so big, so vastly beyond all we can know and understand on this side of eternity, that His expression of Himself through us is equally vast and varying. When God created man, He made us in His image. If God is vast and mysterious and reveals Himself in different ways, small pieces at a time, it would only make sense that the way to do that is through us…Humans made in His image, to reflect Him in all His glory. To reflect such a vast and mysterious God, He would need a vast and multifarious expression.
I am learning a lot about meeting people right where they are, and celebrating all of our humanness. We are all struggling with something. We all have our hang ups and our baggage and our moods and our bad habits and our stuff. We all have stuff, and God uses us even with our stuff. I am learning that to be fully surrendered to Christ does not mean I have to deny my humanness, rather it means I make my humanness available to God, and as I do so, I become more like the human He meant for me to be before all the junk of this world got in the way.
I also believe that we are special, uniquely gifted, and each of us are necessary for God’s plan. Sure, God can fulfill His plan in other ways if we refuse to do our part, but it will not be fulfilled in the way He wanted to do it through us. Through me. Through you.
And who am I? Who are you? That is another undercurrent that is coursing through each of us…the desire to know who we are, and then to be known as fully and deeply as we can be. This is one of the beautiful parts about the way God made us…He made us in His image to express Himself through us. He also made us with this desire to know we are important, to know that we matter. He also made us with a desire to be known deeply and completely. And…He also made us utterly incapable of doing those things for each other. In our quest for significance and knowing, we are directed back to the Creator, who is the only one who can fulfill those needs completely. He knows we are significant enough that He would die for us. He knows us deeply and intimately, and wants to reveal Himself to us in that same way.
In celebrating our humanness, we also see how very limited our capacities are for meeting our deepest needs. That in itself is something to celebrate. Through Jesus, we are rescued from the well of purposeless lives, lives that fall short of what we were made for. Lives that leave us empty. Yes, He came to die so we could be forgiven of our sins, reconciled to God, and we will eventually be in heaven and live out the rest of our eternity with Him. But after the forgiveness, then what?
I am learning about the “then what”.