I think that God instilled in all of our hearts yearnings. These yearnings are towards Him. But to stop the thought here would mean that we have limited God to the word “Him”. So who is God? What does it mean to have a yearning towards God? In one of his podcast series, the reposed Father Thomas Hopko kindly shared his reflections in the series called “The Names of Jesus”. He reflected on the names of Jesus in the Bible and the Orthodox Liturgy. I will not list all of them here, but some of the names he discusses about Jesus are: “Savior”, “The Christ”, “Son of God”, “The Lord”, “I AM”, “God”, “The Teacher”, “The King”, “The Great High Priest”, “Friend”, “Brother”, “The Door”, “The Physician” and many more. Why did I bring this up? The names of Jesus teach us and enlighten us about who we are yearning towards and even what our yearnings are themselves. God teaches us all of this because He is the Teacher!
Who is the object of our desire? Who is at the center of our hunger and thirst? Who is the only one who can fit into our broken hearts like a key fits perfectly in a lock? (or as a drug inhibitor fits into the active site of the enzyme! Biology humor!) The answer is God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the object of our desire and the only fulfillment to our hunger and thirst.
The world tells us that you need this and that to be comfortable and happy. The world “understands” that humans have needs, desires, yearnings, and things we sometimes just wish for. Unfortunately, this understanding by the world comes at a great cost. When we rely on this world to try to satisfy our needs, we will ALWAYS come short, unfulfilled, needing more, and plain old sad. I don’t think it is a wonder that many of us experience despair in various moments throughout our lives. We get lost in the illusion that this world can satisfy our yearnings. One particular yearning I will focus on here is the yearning to be known. I think that at our very core, we desire, and so much yearn, for someone to know us, to really really know us. We can continue to lie to ourselves and put on masks that we don’t need to be known, but the reality is we want and need to be known. We want others to understand us, to know when we are sad, when we are needy, when we are happy and excited about something we just discovered, or when we don’t even understand ourselves. Sometimes we use therapists, Facebook, friends, family, or various other venues to express ourselves (sounds familiar?). We express and share and express and share. What is the point? There is a deeper need to be known, really really known. The desire is there. How we direct this desire is the issue at hand. I think it is good to be known by others, but don’t think that their knowledge of and about you will satisfy your deeper yearning to be really really known!
The reposed Pope Shenouda III wrote in one of his poems titled “Stranger” this line: “A stranger I have no one to unload on him my thoughts so true.” At first, this sounded very ironic to me because it seemed contrary to the reality of what I knew about him. Pope Shenouda wrote so many books and articles, gave very many sermons, lectures, and interviews, not to mention the countless conversations that he must have had with his sons and the lay people. Pope Shenouda shared! He expressed himself! What was he talking about though? I don’t know of course, but I can only guess. I can only guess that he yearned for someone to know him at a much deeper level that we can define in our terms as sharing or self-expression. He wanted to pour himself out to someone, his thoughts (his core) to be known and I imagine he had a lot of thoughts – just judging by how much he wrote. In reality, I don’t actually think that as humans we can truly know each other. I think that there are secrets deep within us that only us and God know. Actually, we don’t even fully know ourselves. For one, we seem to not understand what we yearn for. For now, I have realized from my own life and what God has taught me that we yearn to be known, but this yearning has to be directed towards God. I think we fall into the mistake of relying on the fact that God is all knowing and we don’t share with Him and express ourselves clearly to Him. I think He gets hurt when do that, He sees that we haven’t fully understood that the vail has been torn. Yes, God is indeed all knowing. He knows you, but do you want to be known by Him, I mean really really known? Do you want to know that He knows you? You do, but it’s not very clear to you yet.
Imagine this, you enter into a conversation with a friend and you tell your friend something that happened with you last week, you try to express in words what happened, how you felt, how you dealt with the situation, and how you felt afterwards, and maybe the consequences of what happened, etc. Whatever was on your mind, you shared, but you concealed something. There is always a blind spot in our vision of ourselves in relationship to others. This blind spot prevents us from being really known. Then, we go back to our own lives, sad and disappointed…if only he knew and if only she knew…they would understand…or they would hate me…or they would be disappointed, etc. We suffer from being misunderstood because we are not fully known by others. But what then, what shall we do?
We converse with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hear me out. Have you heard of prayer? Yes, you have. What is prayer? Prayer is a conversation. It is a conversation consisting of thanksgiving, pleading, praise, questions, and much much more. Many Orthodox writers talk about being “naked” in front of Christ. What is this about? I think it is the nakedness of the soul, where our hearts are poured out to God; where, when we think we can hide away from God like Jonah did in the Old Testament, we become trapped and enclosed in an early coffin awaiting death – death of our souls. Exposure – we need exposure in our prayers. We need to recognize and actualize that our prayers are being heard by Christ. You then realize that you are being known by God. Haven’t you ever wished for something on a whim and suddenly it happens. This was God waiting for you to desire something so deeply and He wanted to expose Himself in return. When we don’t realize at those very moments that God knows us, we miss out on something so great! Once, I volunteered to make posters for some event at my university and they were supposed to hung around the campus. I made the posters, took them home until the next day, and when I got to campus I realized that I didn’t have that blue tape they use for hanging posters – in fact, I had no tape at all and I didn’t know where to get it. I was tired and I think I had exams during that time so I was desperate. As I was walking towards the student center to ask for tape, I needed to use the restroom that was on the way. I entered the restroom and guess what was sitting there on the sink – blue tape! I marveled and thanked God. How such a trivial matter could be provided to me by God – did He care about me that much that He provided even something that seemed so small and I thought couldn’t even ask Him for it?! But, He knew exactly what I needed and He provided for me. He knows me!!! This is your story too. This is her story. This is his story.
Whenever you feel misunderstood, confused about why people may be treating you a certain way, or why everything is going wrong at the same time, remember that God knows you! That is sufficient. He knows what you can handle. He knows what you need. He knows how much you suffer. He knows what makes you happy and what makes you sad. He knows what makes you confused and doubtful. He wants to be known by you too! It is a deep relationship – not easy to understand or explain, but deep in your heart and deep in your mind, you know it, you just might not see it yet.
So, remember that Jesus is The Teacher, and He will teacher you what you need because He knows where you lack understanding. He is The Physician, and He will heal you because He knows where you hurt. Jesus is The Door, and He will lead you to His Kingdom. Jesus is your Friend, and He will listen to You when you pray because He loves you deeply – isn’t that amazing! Expose yourself to Him and be comforted by the reality that He knows you. Once you surrender your whole being to Christ through the nakedness of the soul, He can work in you and through you wonderful blessings. I believe that whenever appropriate and when you allow God to work in your life, He will send you ways to become known, in part, to others. This knowledge that you share with others needs to be in praise of God – pray “God, make me a nothing and let only Your Glory shine through what I share”. Nothing we do is perfect, but He makes it beautiful.
As a final thought, I think that we live a paradoxical life – where one thing can always be seen as two or more things. We will not be understood and known by humans. Our exposure to others renders us vulnerable – which we need sometimes, but it also renders us open to attack, criticism, and praise that might lead to pride and vainglory. Ignore it. Seriously, ignore it. Love your brothers and sisters, but ignore their reaction to what you share with them. Pray that God uses your words and actions towards their enlightenment and for their salvation, but realize that whatever God permitted you to share is not from you and it is not for you. It is for His Glory and only His Glory. In conclusion, be careful and don’t take what I say to heart unless you ask God for guidance into what it is you need to understand from it. I, as the writer, am only an ignorant human. Don’t trust me. Trust only God because you are known by Him alone. I don’t know you.
Lord, my Father and my King, Jesus Christ, thank you for my life. Thank you for the heart and intellect that you have provided for me. Thank you for being constant and never changing. Thank you for Your Holy Cross and opening for me the path of Salvation. How can I thank you? I want you to have me, but I don’t know how to give you my soul and my body and my thoughts and all of me. I will tell you about me. I am weak. I am sinful. I am… I am… I am… Yet, You love me and I am still breathing! I put my hope in You alone.
Forgive me. Grant me a spirit of repentance. Teach me Your statutes. Your will be done in my life – I am yours and I am fully known by You and ONLY YOU!