Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
A prominent theme in the Bible, the life manual written by the Creator of all life, is the idea of being “known”. The earliest scriptures reveal man as a social creature, designed to experience relationship and intimacy. It’s within the context of a personal relationship with God that Adam makes his appearance in the creation story. And the very first human-to-human relationship unveiled in scripture is the most intimate of all, the marriage bond between a man and a woman.
To be known is to be valued. We all long to be known and understood. We seek ways to reveal ourselves through various expressions of self. The desire to be known has doubtless played a role throughout history but I believe we live in a moment when the desire to be known has reached a crescendo; as though the more expansive our global connections, the more we struggle to define our individual place in the world and to feel truly known.
Arguably, the desire to be known has fueled the growth of social media where people spend hours a week connecting in a myriad of ways with dozens of friends. It is an unprecedented phenomenon that has piqued the interest of behavioral scientists among others. One researcher describes it this way: “Connectivity is a way of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected. It wants to be visible.” (William Deresiewicz. The End of Solitude)
However it doesn’t take an expert to see that we are driven to make ourselves known. Many of us maintain more social connections than ever and, through a multitude of mediums, reveal ourselves with increasing frequency. But are we, at the end of the day, achieving the intimacy we are striving for? Research reveals that social media may not deliver on the promise to be known or understood. Deresiewicz concludes, “This is how we become real to ourselves – by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity.” (Digital Divide, 307-308)
It seems that one of the salient ironies of the social media age is the increasing isolation it brings. Despite our connections, we are left wondering, Do people really know me?
The greater tragedy is in the possibility that the real fuel driving the social media machine is the greatest need of all – to truly know ourselves. Sadly, trying to find ourselves through the perceptions of others can only leave us empty in the end because our knowledge of one another is imperfect. Too often we know one another only superficially and sort of fill in the rest. Our perceptions of one another are often, to quote Herman the Cricket, a “figamentation of our minagination” [Disney’s Mickey & The Beanstalk].
The solution is found in God’s word. The secret to feeling know is to see one’s self through the eyes of the One who knows us completely and perfectly. God’s word tells me that only He truly knows me.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6
More astounding is that He desires for me to know Him. In fact, God has been making himself known to man since the dawn of time, ultimately revealing Himself in the most tangible of all ways by leaving heaven to become a man and live among us. Through Jesus’ sinless life and death on the cross, we can enjoy the most intimate of all relationships. We are the beloved of the One who created us, who will never leave us or forsake us.