What does it mean “to know that I am known”?

In a very deep conversation with a Vietnam veteran who had many scars and scares, we somehow got on the subject of what “salvation” really means in people’s lives. I asked the question and he answered without hesitation, “For me, salvation is to know that I am known.” WOW!
We spend so much time intellectualizing meaning-filled realities that we miss what is very real in people’s lives. Salvation is a churchy word. “To know that I am known,” is not.
It became clear to me as we talked that what he was getting at is that in a moment of his life he became deeply aware that he was not alone in the universe because he encountered the presence of God in his life. Now I know the word “God” trips up many people. But I will unabashedly confess that while we may never know who God is in the way we “know” things in our real worlds, because God may not be like us, deep down there is a un-rational hunger to know life is not an empty experience; that there is something out there — rational or not — to which we seek to connect to find, if I may, “food for an empty and seeking soul”. My Vietnam Vet friend had come to know he was known — and that, he was clear, was a gift from God.
What about you? If you set aside all the things, issues, causes – whatever — that we look hopefully to find meaning (what I call ‘connect’) — to find an answer to that question we know we ask in our heart but cannot verbalize with our reason — what would you have left? Where would you find that secure sense of meaning in your existence if we lost everything we look to give us groundedness? How do you deal with a desire to know you are known, that you are not alone — that there is meaning to be found in knowing you mean something to the one who put you here in the first place?
I am — this blog is — all about living a life where we are filled from the inside out rather than from the outside in. But to get it, I and you, and all of us together must set aside the givenness of the world we create around us and let the hunger deep down rise to awareness. And then we can say like my friend did —when we too become the recipients of grace — “I now know that I am known.” It’s all in the questions we ask.

finding one’s true self an example

More about who we are as persons
There is a great story in the Gospels that tells of two young men who had everything going for them, James and his brother John, both sons of Zebedee. Zebedee probably ran a fishing business. The boys stood to inherit assets that would set them apart from many other people. As the story goes, they saw this man everyone was talking about walking along the beach. His name happened to be Jesus and he had power no one else had to the same degree. There they were. Doing their thing as father and sons, building up the business as they should.
“What’s that he said,” one of the brothers asked. “Follow me.” That’s what he said.
Choice point.
Follow this person or keep on keeping on.
According to the story, they left everything to follow him.
Left. Everything.
What did they gain, then, if they walked away from inheritance, family, lineage, their sense of “I-know-who-I-am-I-am-the-son-of-Zebedee-heir-to-the-family-fortune.”
No more!
Could it be the boys sensed who they were as persons was not tied up with lineage or fortune or job or reputation or authority. Who they were was not defined by worldly values that had come to mean so much over time.
Maybe there was more to be uncovered by following this particular person. Detaching themselves from their dad to attach themselves to Jesus. Maybe they intuitively knew that who they were meant more to this man than to anyone else ever.
What was it then? Any ideas?
Maybe they saw the opportunity to encounter who they were in God’s eyes by their relationship with this man. As it turns out, the relationship they entered into with Jesus was to enter a relationship with God.
I have discovered in my own life, it is only by detaching myself from the objects of this world and what they come to mean to me and attach instead to the God who can really give what I seek. It is only then that I can safely say I have been found— By my God and by myself.

I have learned something I want to share with you.

Having been retired now for three months, I have learned something. I have learned how easy it is to define ourselves— who we are, what we are about, what’s really inside us— by how others treat us. As I have already told you, I am an ordained Priest in the Episcopal church. What I have learned about the human experience is how easy it is to let titles and roles and status determine our sense of self. Not having a title any more was an eye opener. It is very easy to feed the hunger inside to have a sense of purpose and meaning, by the food others throw at us. I got totally wrapped up in this.
In late July, I decided I needed to create a business card that I can hand out to others — in a way to “legitimize” my retirement. I downloaded a business card template from Avery labels and started to work. I set the Episcopal shield on one side and typed my name in. It all looked great until I noticed there was nothing under my name as if to tell people this is who I am. I bottomed out. It hit me like a rock. I needed a title to be. What I ultimately had done in the attempt to feed that hunger deep down was to say to myself “I am what I do”
This inner hunger is a real thing. It is as if God (yes there is a God— more as we move on) kept one piece of the puzzle of our souls and we are hungry to find it. I believe it is part of the human experience to try to find something tangible (meaning in this world) to “connect” to. In that way we will find a sense of meaning and purpose above and beyond what we do or how people see us. Are we not more than what we do, than the role we play? Are we not more than our assets or the car we drive?
John wrote his story of Jesus long after Jesus’s death and resurrection that changed the life of so many people (again, more as we move on). Christian communities had been around for a while. In his story he puts these words in Jesus’ mouth: “I am the bread of life. Whoever has faith in will never be hungry” (I took some liberties here!) I believe that now more than ever having discovered how I had tried to feed this inner hunger myself — by what I do and the title I held.
We are hungry. There is nothing wrong with this. It is part of being human. What I got an insight into is that who we are has to do with God and God’s presence within us. Call it grace. May we eat of it and never be hungry.

Why this longing inside of me?

This blog is about grace: what it is. How it works, what it says about who God is and how God acts today, it’s transformative powers, and how we make a path for it in our lives. I am convinced that within every person there is a searching, a seeking, a wondering (hence the name of this blog).
This searching aspect of being human rises to the surface when someone you know or loves dies. I see this searching, this questing all the time in the eyes of people at services designed to celebrate the life of the particular person. It is the awareness that each of us is unique and that there is this desire to connect with something higher than our meager selves that lives deep within us that will be the subject of our reflections.
Who am I? Who are you? Why are we here? Where is God in all this? Is there indeed a God at all? Yes there is. Call it what you want, but this questing deep down often causes us to fashion our own Gods— Gods of our liking, and then worship them — connect with them in the hope that meaning can be found.
Are you there, God? That’s the question. That’s the questing.
Next week we begin a conversation on how we make our own Gods.
Stay tuned.