Friday, September 12, 2008

The Miracle of Being Known

I have been confronted yet again this week with the reality that I am the one in who in some ways knows myself the least. It is always startling to come to this realization. After all, I'm the one who knows what's going on in my head (a very interesting place most days). No other person is privy to my inner dialogue. And for this inner dialogue to occur at all, there has to be some sense of who I am, some authorial voice in my head that narrates my actions, perceptions, judgments, etc.

But I am not simply a self in my head, I am a self in relation to others. And others are accounting for my life as well, putting my actions in meaningful relationship to any number of factors. They do this from a greater distance than the inside of my head, and that distance allows them to have perspective that I simply can't gain. It's not that their perceptions are necessarily more true than mine. Often they are not. But sometimes it takes the very distance of the other for my own tightly wound little account of reality to be overthrown.

Now I am an intensely introspective kind of person. By temperment and training I am constantly interpreting myself as a symbolic presence among others. I think this is why it is particularly unsettling for me to be brought up short. To learn that the person I think I am is not the same thing as the person I am is always a humbling experience. Usually, I have found, that realization is a negative one. Yikes.

Self-knowledge is not a stable thing, at least not in people worth knowing. I am highly untrusting of people who act always out of total conviction, without a shred of doubt, assuming only two options--the wrong one and the one they have chosen. Still, the lack of center in a self, a self always given over to review, a self always in flux, makes for a very neurotic existence.

It is with this in mind, that I am reminded of a passage in Galatians. It's actually a parenthetical statement in an argument very different than the one I'm laying out here. But I am learning to place a lot of stock in it. Paul is talking about a former time when we did not know God. But now that we know God...and then the parenthetical statement. It seems like almost an afterthought. He says, "Now, however, that you know God, or rather are known by God, how can you turn back..." (Gal 4:9).

I have no doubt that there is great benefit in knowing God. But I wonder if salvation doesn't consist in resting in the fact that I am known by God. This is more than just saying, God knows all my secrets and still accepts me (though those are no small potatos). This is saying, I think, that I am a definable self, a knowable self, in relation to God. It's not that I have to figure out amid all the contradictory evidence exactly who it is that I am. I am a known quantity to God. I am not in the business of constructing a self, or of figuring out a self, but of receiving a self secure in the knowledge of God. My life is a gift, secure in God's knowing.

This idea offers me both more openness to change and less subjectivity to volatility, a greater chance in both cases to develop into a dependable character in both my life and the lives of others.

I am often struck by the way we elude each other, and even ourselves. But in the grace and freedom of Christ, we are known by God.


Brad said...

Hey Mark, Brad East here. Just thought I'd let you know that I've been reading for the last couple months and have greatly enjoyed and benefitted from it so far. I was glancing at my own blog, and when I saw the link I have to yours, I realized you didn't know that I'm a reader or a linker. So! Keep up the good work, and go Cowboys.

Mark Love said...


Glad to know you're reading. I hope your new life is going well. I know Josh misses you. And, glad to know about your blog.


And, of course, go Cowboys!