He Knows My Name

“You know my name?”. That question from Gary, a rambunctious third grader at the after school program I helped at once a week, made up one of the most formative moments of my college experience. Gary was a trouble maker. Smaller than most of the kids his age, he tried to overcompensate with attention-seeking language and behavior. True to form, one day Gary was running around the basketball court heaving dodgeballs at unsuspecting students when I said, “Gary! Stop that!”. Gary froze in place, turned around, and looked at me before asking, “You know my name?”.
 
“What’s in a name?” - Shakespeare
 
 I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. All I knew to say in response was, “Of course I do, Gary.”. To that, he fired off another simple but equally profound question. “Why?”. Gary’s question was deeper than he realized. Why did I know his name? Like most of the college students there, I was only helping at the after school program because it was required for the service learning seminar I was enrolled in. “I know your name because I care about you, Gary.”. That was the end of the moment. Gary ran off, distracted by the chaos of the gym and the dodgeball in his hand. 
 
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”Psalm 42:7
 

Gary was shocked when I called him by name. He was shocked that I knew who he was. It stopped him dead in his tracks. So now I’ll ask one of the same questions Gary did. Why? Why did me knowing Gary’s name affect him so much? Whether he knows it or not, at the core of Gary’s being he desires to be seen, to be known, and to be loved. I like to pretend that I’m a very deep and existential thinker, pondering the big questions like ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what’s the meaning of life?’, but ultimately, just like Gary, I have an innate desire not to have those questions answered, but to be known. To be seen and accepted. To be loved. 
 
That innate desire to be known, that desire to connect, is part of what it means when the Bible says that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God has crafted each of us with this longing for eternally satisfying connection. To be known fully and not rejected. To be seen and embraced. When the psalmist says, “Deep calls to deep” in the above verse, one of the things I think he’s saying is that the deep things of God, the immutable and unchangeable characteristics of God are calling out to the deep and weighty desires that He has created us with in His image. One of those desires is to know and be known by God and by others. God, the ultimate relational being, models this for us. True to His triune nature, God was in relationship with Himself before anything was ever created. In this way, the instinctive desire to know and be known, to connect, has been on display from all of eternity past. 
 
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” Genesis 16:13
 
When we talk about knowing or being known, the English may do us a disservice. Because of that, I like to frame this idea around the two Spanish infinitives for ‘to know’. If you ever took Spanish in high school, you’ll probably remember that ‘to know’ in English is translated either ‘saber’ or ‘conocer’. ‘Saber’ means ‘to know’, but more accurately it means to know facts or information. While ‘conocer’ also means ‘to know’, it more accurately means to be familiar with someone. When we talk about knowing God, there’s a difference between knowing information about God and being familiar with Him on a personal level. We can have head knowledge about God and not actually know Him at a relational level. Like we see in the story of Hagar from the verse above, Hagar didn’t actually know God in the ‘conocer’ sense of the word. She knew information about Him. She knew him in the ‘saber’ sense of the word, but didn’t know him personally. Ella no conocía a Dios. 
 
Despite Hagar’s incomplete knowledge of God, God knew her fully. In the story, God sees Hagar at her lowest and reaches out to comfort her. He knew the facts and information of her story (‘saber’) and is so familiar with every intimate part of her (‘conocer’) that He knows exactly how to best comfort her. In our very real unknowing of God, He knows us each completely. Paul articulates this sentiment well when he says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). 
 
“The question is not ‘How am I to find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by him?’ The question is not ‘How am I to know God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be known by God?’ And, finally, the question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be loved by God?’” – Henri Nouwen
 
I will never know God to the degree that He knows me. And while I may never know God fully, at least not on this side of eternity, God always has and always will know me fully. This is liberating. This means there’s nothing I can do to be seen or known by Him more. There’s no amount of attention seeking I can do to steal His gaze. There’s no amount of good works I can do to earn status with Him. That’s what Nouwen’s quote is getting at. The impetus is not on me. I can let myself be found, known, and loved by God. I can rest in the fact that I am known by God as His son, adopted into His family through faith in Jesus. This is the invitation God gives us all. Through faith in Jesus, we can rest in the fact that we are seen and known fully and yet somehow loved and embraced completely. To live and love out of this identity is what we were made for. Know that. 
 
Author | Jake Stephens

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