Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Stuff That Matters

The human heart (interior view)
To believe you have been known and understood is simultaneously the most exhilarating and terrifying sensation in the universe.

The terror is the reason most of us avoid it. To be known is to expose the worst about ourselves, so we market a more palatable package of “alternative facts” to the public, withholding information or spinning it as required.

Man, it’s an awful lot of work.

The Detritus of the Heart

I read this somewhere yesterday, and I think the feeling is fairly common:
“I determined that no matter what, nobody understands and nobody actually cares [about what’s going on inside me]. It seems harsh but it’s true. Surface and just-below-the-surface stuff, sure, but not the stuff that matters.”
When we are speaking of human relationships, such a view is a bit dour but not entirely unrealistic. A Christian friend said something similar to me a while back. People are bound to misunderstand and disappoint us, especially in a culture that promotes illusory concepts like the “soulmate”. To pick our way through the detritus of another’s heart is a daunting task, and few of us are up to it.

To complicate things, even those of us who really, truly want to be known and understood are spectacularly poor judges of “the stuff that matters”. What seemed vitally important to us six months ago is often not such a big deal today. I can’t even remember the “stuff that mattered” to me at twenty-three when I gave my life to Christ. Today, it just doesn’t. Circumstances change, our priorities get reordered, and most of the time we don’t even notice it happening.

And yet, despite almost never really knowing what we’re looking for, and despite being our own worst enemies in actually achieving it when we do, most of us are still desperate to be known.

There’s a corollary to that, of course. Nobody wants to be known and despised. Nobody wants to be fully and completely understood so that they can be mocked, rejected or ignored. We hope to be known because we hope to be loved. Worse, on some level we instinctively grasp that being loved for things about us that are not true is not really being loved at all. We know this, but then we pop our masks right back on anyway.

The Universal Chorus

One important marker on the road to Christian maturity is coming to realize we can only ever be completely known and loved in this life by our Maker. Nobody else is up to the job. David says:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”
Preceding his psalm are three little English words, “To the choirmaster”. David recognized that what he writes here is universal, and he wanted his people to be able to sing it together. What was true of David’s relationship with his God remains true of every one of us.

Put bluntly, God’s the ONLY one who “gets it”.

A Blunt Declaration

I am known and loved by God. He has bluntly declared his love over and over again in his word, and then he has demonstrated it more profoundly than any lover, husband, wife, father or mother ever could:
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That’s love that comes out of an absolutely comprehensive knowledge of all the depths of my natural depravity and yours. That’s love that is demonstrated day after day despite the thousands of ways in which I continue to exhibit my fallen nature. I am known and I am loved.

Off the Hook

To accept once and for all the truth that ONLY God can fully know and love me in this life is absolute liberty. It allows me to let everyone who has failed me (and will reliably continue to fail me) off the hook. My expectations of them have been unrealistic, after all. My wife, my husband, my friends — they weren’t made to read my mind or to fill the holes in my heart. They can’t possibly, and it’s not their fault. It’s time to enjoy them for the things about me they DO understand, rather than despairing of the things they don’t.

It also allows me to let myself off the hook when I fail others, because that’s going to keep happening too. I’m going to be just a bit too dull from time to time. I’m going to miss many cues about their needs and desires even when they’re right in front of me. But God didn’t make me to meet every single one of their needs either. He has provided them with himself, if they’re willing to accept that. I’m just a bonus.


Further, it allows me to drop the mask just a bit. If all my faults are already known and I am loved by God anyway, does it really matter all that much if you think less of me than I would’ve liked? Hey, you might even be right.

Even As I Have Been Fully Known

Finally, it allows me to invest my emotional energies in communing with Heaven, where a place is being prepared for me, rather than on earth where so often they will be wasted, in the knowledge that one day “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known”.

And when I do make the effort to know and be known here, I can be sure that it is only when I am being most like my Saviour that I have the slightest chance of getting the job done.

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