I envy those writers who sign their works “Anonymous” and get away with it. I imagine how great it would be to publish a book without anyone knowing you had written it. That way if people hated it, you would be safe from ridicule. If they loved it, you would be safe from the spotlight. Either way, you would avoid attention. This sounds very appealing to me.
Actually, I think I am afraid of being known. Recent events in my life have revealed this to me.
Around this time last year, I was planning a wedding. And I was freaking out—not about the flowers or the guest list—but about the thought that with marriage I would no longer be my own independent person. It would be “us”, not “me” and with that leaving and cleaving things would change. Things, maybe painful things, would be discovered.
Living in such close intimacy with another person, waking up and going to sleep beside him every day, unable to hide the ugliness inside me. The paralyzing fears, selfish motives, angry outbursts, self-destructive patterns that might cause him regret.
Moving across the country has also been terrifying for an intimacy-avoiding person like me. All kinds of challenges arise with a new community, new church, new opportunities to meet new people every new freakin’ day. How much do I let people in? How much of my true self do I let people see? What language, stories, images will I use to describe “Me”? What if I let people know me…and they reject me?
But then I go to the other side. What if I am not known? What if I am able to cage up my innermost feelings, worries, insecurities, weaknesses, and pains…to lock up those monsters and throw away the key? I wonder if it is possible to live in such a way that no one, not even my husband, knows me as anything but a good and happy girl who is always “just fine”.
It sounds hard, but really it might be oh so easy to live a life of anonymity.
What about God? Remember that song in Sunday School, “oh be careful little eyes…little ears…little mouths…little sinful beings…that the Father up above is looking down in love” As a child I doubted that anyone seeing the depths of my unholy thoughts could really be “looking down in love.” Even now, I can’t escape a nagging sense of shame at the thought of being seen with omnipresent eyes.
Deuteronomy tells the story of a people who tried to escape an all-knowing God and instead worship impersonal gods of their own handiwork, with blind eyes of stone or clary. Here, they thought, is independence. Here is anonymity:
They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently…You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.
Birth, the most vulnerable place. Violent exposure to a brave new, scary world. The Creator of Life, who formed you in your mother’s womb has been near to you ever since. Even in the times when you gave Him little thought, when you rejected His fatherhood and tried to run away from His presence, He knew you better than you knew yourself. And unlike the blind, stationary gods of stone that crumble with neglect, the Living God chased after you.
He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.
Like a Father who understands what is best for his child.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me…You hem me in, behind and before…Where can I go from Your Spirit?…You Are There.
This is what it looks like to be known by this kind of God. It is not scary, because as His redeemed and forgiven child, the knowledge is not condemning. He is there and He is constant, no matter what I have done to offend Him. To be known by Him is rescue, it is belonging, and it is incredible.
Rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
So here I am, spilling my thoughts out on a blog. Because I think it’s time I tell my soul a few things:
Soul, do not fear being known. That night you knelt over the toilet, losing your supper, gave your husband an opportunity to demonstrate love by holding back your hair and rubbing your back. That time he came home from work and you were in angry tears over a burnt supper and a dirty house revealed deeper insecurities that he could speak truth in to. That afternoon you sat on the couch of a woman you really just met and with trembling voice expressed the loneliness that sometimes overcomes you, was so frightening, but now do you see the friendship that is blooming? These vulnerable unmasked moments are whens you learn that true love does not run away from your failings and wounds—true love rises to meet them with a kindness, compassion, and self-sacrifice. It is the love of Christ coming to life in His people.
Remember the words from Tim Keller you had spoken over you on your wedding day: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Soul, do not fear being known. It is what you crave.
Scripture in order of appearance: Deuteronomy 13, Psalm 139, Ephesians 2
Photo by Elina Hope Photography