Friday, October 23, 2015

31Days - Not Known

I wrote the following journal entry in August of 2003. We had been attending a new church for several months after the failure of another church we had been very active in. The entry has been edited very slightly to remove names. It is otherwise unchanged.

How can I be so desperate to be known... and so reluctant to put myself in a position where I can be -- all at the same time?

You know what I hate most about church now? I have to admit that those first few moments before a service begins are uncomfortable – on the outskirts, not quite belonging. But what I really hate is when the worship leader says from the stage, "Have a good week." It's our cue to leave our "comfortable" places in our chairs, go collect kids, and leave for another week. And I hate it. The thought of having to interact with someone petrifies me... yet... I want so desperately to be able to do more than just come, worship, and then leave without even talking to a friend. I hate knowing that I'll walk out those doors and we'll eat lunch alone... again. Just typing it out is enough to cause the tears to fall again. I still, so desperately, miss the friendships at our last church. I still miss working hand in hand with the pastor and his wife. I miss him investing in me; patiently trying to grow me into the leadership role I owned, but didn't deserve - sometimes with encouragement, sometimes with a much-needed 2x4, but always there. I miss knowing that even when I messed up, someone there knew my heart... and still cared. I miss the Sunday afternoon lunches and discussions and planning sessions. I miss working with the band. I miss coming early and leaving late. As stressful as caring for the team and the congregation was, I still miss it. I miss connecting. Me, the independent one whose team had no clue that I even cared. Even I didn't realize how much I cared. But all those missing interactions leave such a huge hole....

So, yes, I hate hearing him say "Have a good week." It means the hardest part of my week is just moments away. I hate just walking out. Alone. It seems so empty. And yet... And yet week after week, I head straight for the kids, lower my eyes to avoid contact and walk out - an incredible contrast in wanting to be known and refusing to chance it. At war with myself. How stupid is that?

Oh, God... I need someone to rescue me from myself....

So my fear for Day Twenty-one:

I am afraid of not being known.

I suppose you could call it a fear of being alone. But it goes deeper than that. I can do "alone" time. In fact, I need alone time. It's feeling alone even when surrounded by people that's the issue. That "alone" comes from the fact that those around me don't truly know my heart. They don't know who I am enough to really stand with me. They may be social media friends... but they aren't really friends.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. Alone can hurt. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you...."
(Jeremiah 1:5)

God knows us intimately!

Before our creation, God knew us. Think about that. Even before our parents' DNA joined in that miraculous moment called conception, God KNEW us. He didn't know about us. He KNEW us.

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.
(Psalms 139:1-4)

God understands us.

Our every thought, He understands completely. He understands it even before we have it! Several times through this series, I've suddenly seen that in the same section of scripture where God called me to action, He also preemptively addressed my fear. He understands me; sees the fear coming before I'm even aware of it; and speaks to it – thousands of years before I was born! He understands me in ways I don't even understand myself.

Continuing with the same passage of scripture:

You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
(Psalms 139:5)

God touches us.

When I am in a new place or in a crowd, there is something intimately reassuring about the touch of my husband's hand on the small of my back – leading, guiding, and reassuring. I feel protected and cared for. As I read verse 5, I sense that same touch. God is on every side of me, standing in front of me and behind me with His hand on me – leading, guiding, and reassuring. I am protected and cared for. He is close enough to touch. And He touches me – He gently lays His hand on me! I am known. And I am most definitely not alone.

"No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
(John 15:15)

Jesus calls us friend.

If I'm honest, though.... sometimes I'd still like a friend that has two feet on the ground, you know? A friend with some skin on. Here's the thing: I think God understands that completely:

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
(Genesis 2:18)

God knows it's not good for us to be alone!

I know generally we use this scripture to talk about marriage. But not everyone is married. Yes, marriage is a beautiful gift. But married or not, God knows it is not good for us to be alone. He means marriage to be male/female. But I think we can look at Jesus and know that God thought it was a pretty good idea to have some same-sex friends as well. John writes of Jesus entrusting His mother to him:

When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
(John 19:26)

Jesus' example affirms friendship.

Entrusting His mother to "the disciple whom He loved." That sounds like really good friends to me! You don't entrust your mom to just anyone!

But more than just Christ's example affirms friendship:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

God's word affirms friendship.

It is generally believed that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. You know Solomon... David's son. I wonder, if while writing those words, Solomon was thinking back to the stories he had most certainly heard about his father's best friend – Jonathan. I mentioned the friendship on Day 12, but here's the beginning of it:

Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.... Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.
(1 Samuel 18:1, 3-4)

David had just killed Goliath and Saul had been asking about it. Jonathan heard David's answers and knew that this was someone he could count as a friend. They both had the same love for God, and the same trust that God would see them through battle. (Jonathon faced the Philistines with only his cupbearer in 1 Samuel 14). One difference: Jonathon is the crowned prince, next in line for the throne; David has been anointed for the throne by God. Whoa! But Jonathan gives David his robe, acknowledging that he knows God is giving the throne to David. What unlikely friends! And yet, "Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself." They weren't just friends, they were best friends. They made a vow to protect each other's families. Jonathan protected David from his father, Saul. David sheltered Jonathon's family from annihilation (the norm was to kill the entire royal family after taking over the throne, but David refused to harm the family of his dearest friend). So these two men who could easily be enemies fighting over the throne are instead deeply devoted friends. The friendship saves David's life; preserving the lineage of the coming Christ. You can't tell me God didn't have a hand in that!

God provided exactly the friend that David needed.

Let's look at another story:

Elijah was a prophet of God who had just seen God act in mighty ways, exposing Baal as a false god. Elijah, in fact, was part of that entire process. But after exposing Baal, he receives a death threat from the queen who was a Baal worshipper. Elijah runs for the desert. God meets him there, taking care of his personal needs for rest and nourishment before asking why Elijah is there. Elijah answers:

"I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
(1 Kings 19:10)

Elijah feels alone. So alone and so discouraged that earlier he had actually prayed for his own death. And this is a man whose prayers had held back rain for 3.5 years and then called down the fire of God on a soaked sacrifice! Elijah isn't really the last prophet and he knows it – earlier in the story Obadiah had told him that he'd managed to hide 100 prophets in caves. But Elijah feels alone. And he doesn't hesitate to tell God.

God first answers by drawing him into a cave and revealing Himself (1 Kings 19:11-12). God knew that the first thing Elijah needed was a personal encounter with God and He gave it to him. Elijah recognizes the presence of God and humbly responds accordingly. God then asks Elijah again what he is doing out here. And Elijah gives the same answer:

"I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
(1 Kings 19:14)

God doesn't get frustrated. He knows what Elijah needs next and, again, He provides it:

The Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. "It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. "Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."
(1 Kings 19:15-18)

First, He gives Elijah a personal encounter. Then He gives him a job to do in anointing new kings over Syria and Israel. Elijah needed a task to focus on so he could avoid excessive introspection. He needed to stop looking at himself and his own (admittedly difficult) circumstances. But the next thing is what's really cool.

God gave something else to the discouraged and depressed prophet, beyond a personal encounter; beyond work to do. He also gave him a friend and a successor. Elijah needed a friend. His main complaint was that he was alone. God knew that and provided for it. God let Elijah know that there was a man ready to be his disciple and companion.

God provided Elijah the friend he needed at exactly the right time.

Father God, thank You so much for looking out for me with such great care. Sometimes it's easy to think that I'm alone... that everybody else already has the friends they need and there's no room for me. Socially inept and unwanted. But I am wanted. I am known. In incredible ways. And not only are You my friend, but You've shown me through these stories, that You will provide what I need (or who I need) right when I need it. Help me to run first to You and trust You for the rest.

Tomorrow I'll look at the flip side of the journal entry above – the fear of being known. But for now, here's the recap of today:

Fear: I am afraid of not being known (feeling alone).


  • God knows us intimately! (Jeremiah 1:5)
  • God understands us and touches us. (Psalms 139:1-5)
  • Jesus calls us friend. (John 15:15)
  • God knows it's not good for us to be alone! (Genesis 2:18)
  • Jesus' example affirms friendship. (John 19:26)
  • God's word affirms friendship. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
  • God provided exactly the friend that David needed. (1 Samuel 18-19)
  • God provided the friend Elijah needed at exactly the right time. (1 Kings 19:15-18)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

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