[Originally published in the Monroe News on May 26, 2023]
How well do you really know someone? Do you have to spend time with somebody to get to know them? Can you know someone by writing through the mail or over the internet? The ways of communication in our day and age have really stretched this question to the limits.
Consider how we use social networks, I follow a number of athletes and other public personalities. Many share their personal stories, their highs, their lows, even some about their family. You almost get the sense you know them. By following somebody like this you might learn their favorite vacation spot or their favorite food. If I follow someone who shares a lot I might begin to give myself the sense that I’ve come to know them. I’ll form opinions about them. I’ll assume I know the way they think about things. But do I really know them? If I met them on the street would I be able to pick up with them like old friends? Of course, the answer is no. In all of this there is an inescapable point: this is one-sided. I might think I know them, but they certainly don’t know me.
And the truth is, I almost certainly don’t know the other person as well as I think. When it comes to social media, people tend to be very selective in what they share about themselves, giving a picture of a life that is quite likely far from reality. It isn’t hard for me to share all of the good things I do and the highlights of my life giving the impression I’ve got it all figured out, while at the same time hiding all the lows and the challenges and struggles.
Trying to know someone from a distance is so much more difficult than getting to know someone in person. Our life’s experiences are largely shaped around shared experiences. There is a certain power to being in the presence of others that helps to shape relationships. Consider this: imagine staring with a certain awe at a beautiful picture someone shares on Instagram. They’re highlighting some majestic place they just saw on vacation. As we look at this picture we imagine what it would have been like to be there with them. We picture what kind of emotions that moment would have created. But we remain at a distance. Contrast that thought with actually being present in the moment in that majestic place. Instead of looking at a picture imagine you’re in the picture, you’re in the moment, you’re with this other person. You’ve shared the experience, you’ve shared that time together.
Knowing someone has at its core presence and time together. With that thought in mind, I would have you consider what this says about the relationship we might share with our God in heaven. Can we know God? Is this a relationship of distance? Is it possible to have closeness or be in the presence of God? Can we know Him like we would our nearest human relationships?
The answer is: yes. From the moment God created man and woman He has set about to dwell with us and be near us. That is still God’s desire to this very day and always will be. Even the book of Revelation as it describes eternal life tells us “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. (Rev. 22:3)” God loves us and He desires to be with us and indeed He fulfills this desire. We can see this best in knowing Jesus Christ. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God with us.
And in Jesus, we can know God. This is a great gift. In fact, the best gift. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night He was betrayed and arrested, He set about praying for us and part of His prayer describes the blessing of knowing Him, He said “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (Jn 17:3)”
God wants us to know Him as He knows us. This happens through Jesus. This happens through the Bible, the very Word of God. We can know God in His Word where He has revealed Himself to us. And because God comes near to us, and dwells with us this is not a long-distance relationship. It is one of closeness, of presence together, of intimacy.
This is God’s invitation to fill the longings and yearnings of our hearts. All of us have within us a longing for something deeper. For something more fulfilling than what most of life’s relationships give us. Loneliness and despair are practically epidemic in our world today. In Christ we have the sure solution. In Christ we have the ability to know the very lover of our souls. And to know Him is to know eternal life.
To God be the glory.