I have been in a reflective mood lately. So today I offer up more questions than answers and some simple thoughts that, I believe, have profound meaning and may call us to think and act on a deeper level. I have been reflecting on this phrase lately: to be known. From a self-centered perspective (and I don’t mean that in a negative way), I think we all have a deep desire to be known: by God, by others, and even by ourselves. And I think we want to be known in an authentic, meaningful way… in a real way. And if each of us has such a desire, then we also have to think beyond ourselves: about what it means to know others… to know others with grace and love.
We want to be known…
- by God
- by others
- by ourselves
- at our deepest level
- in a safe way
- with all our gifts
- …and all our faults
So what does this mean for the church? Well, who are we when we walk into the church building on a Sunday morning? Who are we when we sit down in a Bible study? Who are we when we gather with the governing body of the church for a meeting? Are we willing to be our real, authentic selves: full of gifts, full of faults? Are we willing to be seen as one who is only able to serve because God loves us and forgives us? Do we recognize that we can’t love, share, or serve without the grace of God, for us and with us? In other words: It’s not really all about us in the first place.
A few years ago, I was working with a session who realized the church members didn’t necessarily know each other. We talked about what it would mean, and what it would look like, if we knew each other on a deeper level. What would happen if we knew the spiritual questions and concerns of our children, youth, and adults? And what would we do in order to know each other in such a way? How can we create space in the church for people of all ages and stages in life to share of themselves?
I think these are important questions for the church today as we see, more and more, a changing landscape in mainline denominations. If a church is more a building with classes, programs and activities and less about relationships and authenticity, why will people continue to come? Where are we creating space for people to be, as God created them? How can the church be a safe place for people to be real and authentic?
And when we begin to think about what it means to be known in our churches and by our church families, then we may begin to think about what it means to be known outside the church. What does it mean to be a follower of Christ in our community? How are we willing to be known by strangers, by people we interact with in the community? Are we willing to open the door to a more honest and authentic relationship with others?
There is a lot to think about, and I see this as only the very beginning of a conversation. In what ways do you want to be known? How can the church create space for the people of God to be known? Is it too risky to be known? Is there freedom in being known… by God, by others, and by ourselves?
Wherever the answers lie, I pray we might rest in the mysterious knowledge that we are all created in God’s image. I pray we might live as beloved children of God, called by Jesus and wrapped up in the Spirit’s presence. And I pray we might know and feel the real, true grace of God today and every day.