Deeply Known, Deeply Loved
I recently enjoyed the privilege of spending the weekend with four other pastors who travelled to Huntsville so the five of us could spend 48 hours together. We talked, we prayed, we laughed, we cried. We asked each other hard questions and listened to even harder stories.
We’ve been gathering at least annually for nearly a decade since we were in seminary together, and we treasure these times together. Through exhilarating highs and devastating lows, we have forged relationships where we are safe to bare our souls and be ourselves—sometimes sharing things we didn’t know were in our hearts until we processed them together. We are safe to go there, though, because while we may well receive critique and challenge, we know we will receive love and acceptance as well.
We prioritize this time each year because relationships like that are invaluable. Deeply known and deeply loved. How many people even know the deep longings, wounds, and fears in your heart? And how many of those consistently love and accept you when they know them? While you can find relationships like that in a marriage, with a parent, among a small group, or with a best friend, they are undeniably hard to come by.
We learned at our Express Grace Conference last month that God created us for relationships like this—both with him and with each other. He designed us to live in relationships where we are “naked”—fully exposed, deeply known—and “unashamed”—fully accepted, deeply loved. God planned it that way because that is the way he relates to his people—knowing everything about them and loving them unfailingly. He wants us to know that deep relationship with him and to reflect his image in the world by relating like that with others.
The problem is that those relationships where we are deeply known and deeply loved can be prevented from either side. Often we don’t let people in to know the real us very deeply at all. Shameful, insecure, or self-protective, we hide behind a carefully edited Facebook profile or a public persona that presents strength and success while covering up weakness and struggle. On the other hand, many potentially life-giving relationships are thwarted by rejection, judgment, and condemnation. We take the risk to reveal the ugly reality inside of us and encounter our greatest fear, the reason we hid the truth for so long: often the people who ought to embrace us instead exclude us for being “different” and treat us with self-righteous disdain.
This issue of BRANCHES highlights in several places how vital it is for the family of God to live in true relationships. Our Father has loved and welcomed us into relationship even when he knew the deepest, ugliest parts of us. Yet we, too, are still prone to hiding. We, too, are still prone to excluding. Whether we consider our family members, fellow church members in different life situations, or non-Christians in our neighborhood and around the world, God calls us in one relationship after another to enter in (not hide) and welcome in (not exclude).
Take the opportunity this month to invest intentionally in a relationship like that. Come out of hiding with a spouse, a friend, or a co-worker. Invite a child, a neighbor, or a church member to share joys or sorrows in their heart and then listen patiently and empathetically. It’s an investment of time that will pay dividends for years to come—both in the life of the other person as well as in your own. You will both gain a window into the way God relates to us and gain an experience of what he created us for all along. Could it really be true? Deeply known and deeply loved? Absolutely—it once was, and God is making it so over and over again!