Growing up in the evangelical church I found myself a young person being encouraged to know the ways of God. To seek after Him and know His word. All very valid aspects to my Christian life to this day, but for some reason I found myself floundering in my faith for a decade wondering where was the freedom that Christ promised? Why did I struggle continuously with the same issues? Why did rejection and shame seem to get the upper hand in my mind regardless of how many hours I would spend in His word or quoting scripture?
In the past few years I have discovered greater freedom by switching my focus from just merely knowing God to allowing myself to be known BY Him. Allow me to explain the difference.
Knowing God: Focus on knowing His Word, what He says, an emphasis on what is truth – not only being right – but getting it right. For me, this focused my life much on “should’s”: I should read my Bible, I should spend time with God, I should pray for how many hours a day….. These should’s ironically only led me further away from God while I drowned in shame. I chose to run from Him because I clearly couldn’t get this Christian thing down good enough. How could I face Him?
My striving to know God became an obsession with believing the right things, being able to hold myself up in a debate with someone of different beliefs, and held a strong emphasis over my behaviour. The outer appearance of how I was doing was of utmost importance driving my approval-addict to go into overdrive. I would be the Christian poster child to all, even if it meant my relationship with God was based solely on how I was “performing”. I became so fixed on truth and getting it right that there was no room for grace for myself or others inside or outside of my belief system. When someone “failed”, I believed it was because they didn’t know God enough. When I faced my own failure, I sank into two years of distance from God. Clearly I didn’t know Him enough either and felt He could feel nothing but great disappointment with me.
Ironically, this focus on knowing God for me was driven by two key aspects of the Fall from the Garden: Fear and Shame. One thing I know now is that God never uses aspects of the fall to draw us to Him, yet those were my two largest motivators in my faith.
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were not supposed to from the garden, their minds instantly became aware of the roots of sin: fear, shame, and pride. Shame revealed to them they were naked. Fear told them to hide from God and pride told them it wasn’t their fault. What was God’s response? Was it, “You FOOLS!!” or “How could you have done this??”. No, His response was “WHERE ARE YOU?” He knew exactly where they were, but here lies God’s heart for us to be known BY Him instead of striving on our own. In His statement, “Where are you?”, He was saying; “Why are you running? Don’t hide from me, come to Me and allow yourself to be seen, even in your mess”.
Allowing ourselves to be seen by God may be the bravest thing we will ever do. It means coming to the light and allowing Him to peer into every crevace of our soul that has attempted to look good, as well as the parts we have not yet tried to redeem, or the parts we have chosen to ignore. Standing before Him in our nakedness, allowing Him to gaze right into our eyes despite whether we feel we’ve had time to fix ourself up for Him. Coming to Him as is; imperfect, incomplete, broken, hurt, angry, confused, addicted, bitter and inviting Him INTO all of it.
Why do we find this so hard? Because we’ve become experts at self redemption. We want to fix our issues and then present ourselves to God confident that He will accept the great job we have done with our clean up job. The problem is that in our attempts for perfection lies the greatest imperfection. The root: pride, shame and fear of BEING KNOWN. The great deception is that we can save ourselves. We need to understand that sin isn’t “being bad”, it’s missing the mark; it’s rooted in all our attempts at saving ourselves. From focus on building our own kingdoms, to doing this in the name of “being a good person”, to drinking ourselves to forget our misery. All of it comes from the same root – but it all has the invitation to come to the light and take a tall, cold drink from Him. A drink that we’ve truly thirsted for.
Christianity is not about being right, it’s about being known.
Christianity is not a change in direction, that we have so often heard, but a change in connection.
Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make what is dead in us come alive. Jesus is God’s answer to “Where are you?”. In Christ we find out who we are and what we are living for. He becomes our author, our definition. A faith rooted in ourselves will always struggle with personal worth and calling, but a faith that is based on allowing God to cover our lack, remove our shame and fear and make us whole is a faith that makes one truly brave. It’s where we allow ourselves to be found.
Jesus doesn’t want you to invite Him into your life – He is inviting you into His. It is Christ, not religion that saves us. We focus our thoughts on how we feel in God’s presence, but have we thought about how He feels in ours? You could say our entire Christian faith puts emphasis on serving Christ, but do we ever stop to ponder how God serves us with His great love? He prepares the banquet, woo’s us with his love, washes us clean. He is very much interested in a two way relationship. If you have a hard time imagining that, it may reveal your attempt at self redemption you may not have realized. Jesus takes the concept of “seek Him with all your heart and you will be found by Him” one step further. GOD SEEKS YOU. He pursues you. He comes and prepares a table for you to come and find Him and rest for your weary soul.
What is the secret? What is the key, the ONE THING we must do to receive? Have faith to just receive. That’s it. Allow yourself to be seen, be known by the One who already knows you. Almost seems to good to be true, but that is the gospel: Cease striving and know that He is God. Lean back and surrender to grace.
I will close with an illustration from something I learned through our son’s psychologist. When our son with special needs would scream, hit, or be out of control we would send him to his room to “get it together”. When he was ready to be a good boy he could come out and join the family. This is the way I was raised. She, however, told us that we were breaking connection with him – the one thing that could bring healing to his troubled mind. She said instead of sending him away, we were to bring him closer in those moments and tell him nothing would break our connection with him. The reality of “being known” by God became real to me through this. God doesn’t send us “to our rooms” to get it together. He holds us right there in our mess; when we’re hurling profanities, kicking and screaming. He will never break connection with us, and just as my arms would soften my son’s rage, His arms break the ground of our hardened heart. The warmth of His arms allows us to be brave to sink in and surrender to his embrace once again.
Being known by God. Take a breathe and allow yourself to be seen. May you be found in Him once again.