To Know & To Be Known

I lead a small group of ninth grade girls.

The memories of the ninth grade burn in me like a song you can’t get out of your head. But sometimes the song is “It’s a Small World” and there is absolutely nothing you can do to make it stop.

Awkwardly fumbling with your pile of books because you weren’t old enough for a locker. Sparkly formal dresses and a first attempt at blue eye shadow. The perm you decided to get because “it would look great” and “all the cool kids were doing it.” I’m pretty sure I wore the same shirt from what was once my favorite store (and will remain unnamed for the sake of my reputation) in a different color every day for 4 months straight.

But here’s the thing: As painfully uncomfortable as those things are to think about, that time of my life was one of the very sweetest. It’s a time of naivety that I can only return to in my daydreaming. There were no videos of people sharing what’s in their latest “haul,” no constant streams of articles convincing you that your eyebrows aren’t good enough, and certainly no hard and fast rules regarding how long you have to wait before you text your friend back so that you don’t seem clingy. If people were hanging out without you, you didn’t know it. Instead of scrolling for hours to see what other people’s lives were like, you made your own experiences—not so that you could get likes or seem cool, but so that you could build deep friendships and have the kind of fun that makes you belly-laugh for hours.

A slower pace. Less expectations. I yearn for that.

But, let me be clear. In no way am I attempting to make a them versus me claim. You’ll find me scrolling and watching videos of total strangers and seeking to meet the expectations of those around me any day of the week. Our culture is consistently becoming more ravenous for likes, for filters, and for whatever the opposite of FOMO is.

But for my sweet ninth grade girls, these experiences come in an entirely different context than they do for me: These girls have never, ever known a world in which they don’t have all-access passes all the time. The idea of constant connection is not only something they crave, but also something that has become as integral to their lives as oxygen (or even as integral as my Diet Coke at three o’clock every afternoon.)

Our small group meets for an hour, and when I tell them to put their phones in the middle of our circle they tell me how grateful they are to have an Apple watch so they can still check their messages. They are always in the know of what’s going on. Always aiming to stay relevant. Always aware that there are people watching them.

My girls are a reflection of the two quintessential, present-day American dreams: To know and to be known.

TO KNOW

Knowledge has never been more accessible to us than it is right this second. With a quick Google search, a visit to my beloved IMDb app, and a couple scrolls through Twitter, I can become an expert in virtually anything. In fact, to not know something is immensely uncomfortable.

And I’m not just talking about not knowing the altitude of the Dead Sea or not knowing how many Academy Awards John Wayne won. It’s not knowing what somebody’s doing, or not knowing how to pull off the latest fashion trend.

We, as an entire society, have an insatiable need to know.

The Word of God, however, has made it abundantly clear that we already know everything worth knowing–even the things we don’t deserve to know.

We know God:

Ephesians 1:17 – that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

We know Jesus Christ:

Colossians 2:2 – that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,

We know the love of the triune God:

Ephesians 3:19 – and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God

God, in His goodness and graciousness and faithfulness, has given us access to everything we need to know. But hang tight, because it’s even better than that.

TO BE KNOWN

Much deeper than knowing God is being known by God. What most profoundly defines us as Christians is not that we have come to know Him, but that He took notice of us and chose us as His own.

Yet so often we decide that we’ll settle for less than that. We seek to be known by finite humans through finite measures. A couple hundred likes from acquaintances you haven’t spoken to in six years has become equivalent with intimacy and belonging.

We’ve missed the point. The One who is infinite has chosen to know us intimately, infinitely. El Elyon–Most High God–is El Roi–God Who Sees Me.

The psalmists remind us that we are known by Him even more than we know our own selves and He is with us always:

Psalm 139:1-7 – O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

Paul, in his epistle to the church in Galatia puts it this way:

Galatians 4:8-9 – However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

We have come to know God, because we are known by Him. Because of His mercy that follows us, we are no longer obligated to find our identities in the things around us that have become unfulfilling idols. As Christians, we are wholly known and loved by God, and in turn, we know Him. And knowing Him transforms us entirely.

We will never be fulfilled by recognition from others. The identities we have created for ourselves that hinge on the approval of humans will never satisfy us, because we have already received something far better: the grace of God through His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

So. To my girls, and anyone else who might be searching for satisfaction in who you are: Unplug. Step back. Rest in the infallible truth that you are deeply known by God, and because of that grace, He has allowed you to know Him and His love in return. And if you’re thinking about that perm? I say go for it–you’ll appreciate the pictures one day, I promise.

Megan Richardson is graduate of Belmont University and staff writer for Kingdom Tribe Press. 

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