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Growing in Knowing God

July 7, 2013

Knowing someone usually carries with it the implication that we have not only met that person, but spent time with them in order to learn who they are. I can say, however, that I know who Barack Obama is as I have seen him countless times on television or in other media and do recognize him as the President of the United States even though we have never actually met. Dependent upon the context therefore, we can see how ‘knowing’ someone can mean very different things; it can range someone with whom I am intimate and share all of my heart to someone, like President Obama, whom I have never met but know about from what others have said about him. In Scripture there are instances where the word ‘know’ is used to refer to intimate relations between a husband and wife; from the same Hebrew and Greek root words, God tells us that He knows us and desires that we know Him to that same extent. How is that possible? How can I possibly “…know even as I am known…” (I Corinthians 13:12)?
In marriage a man and a woman can over time become more and more familiar with the person they have wed; much of the knowledge they gain of the other will be a surprise, sometimes a pleasant one and often not so much. These surprises can range from not realizing the person we are marrying snores like the Queen Mary’s fog horn to discovering they have small but irritating mannerisms they perform almost without thinking. When the honeymoon is over the real marriage can begin and it often comes as a shock to one or both that perhaps this marriage thing isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. The violins have stopped playing and the daily aggravations and exposure to who this person really is on a day-to-day basis can be as infuriating as fingernails constantly scratching across a chalkboard.
Ravi Zacharias ( once told the story of how his brother was going to meet his bride for the first time as the marriage had been arranged through their respective families. Ravi related how he was amazed at the thought that his brother had never met this woman, nor she him, and yet they were soon to be married and he asked his brother a telling question (paraphrasing); “What are you going to do if, as she comes off the plane you both look at each other and say to yourselves, ‘O brother, what have I done?’” His brother said something that has resonated within my heart since; he told Ravi that love was as much a choice as an emotion that you feel for someone over time, that regardless of the first impression he had of his bride, he had already chosen to love her and knew that over time the feelings would follow. Such concepts are hard for us in the West to comprehend; we usually have an extended period of courtship and “…getting to know you…” (as the songwriter put it) even before the decision is made that we are “…falling in love…” with that person and begin thinking about marriage. How, we in the West may ask ourselves, can we ‘love’ someone we’ve never met and know nothing about?
In the Gospel he recorded, John tells us that, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God, who knows EVERYTHING about each of us, including what we will do or what we are thinking, chose to love us, not because we are all so wonderfully obedient and saintly, but because of a choice. Earlier in Scripture it speaks to how He chose Abraham (then Abram) from whom to raise up a people for Himself, not because this Abram was any different from anyone else in the world, but as a volitional choice, God picked Abram out of all of humanity to be His (Genesis 12). God chose and from Abram, who would become Abraham, God would raise up a people to be His. Why? Why would God need to choose anyone, why did He bother with creation at all? Did God ‘need’ companionship? Was God lonely?
Jay Thomas, the lead pastor at the Chapel Hill Bible Church ( put it this way in one of his lessons (paraphrasing); ‘Creation resulted from the overflow of love in the Godhead.’ Think of that, the only truly self-existent Person needed no one or nothing to be complete. Yet out of the overabundance of His Love He chose to create this world and the people upon it knowing even before He created that humanity would rebel and it would take His Son invading creation to make a Way for us to come Home. Abram was no prize; Scripture points out several times that he doubted or was afraid and tried to pull a Frank Sinatra and do it “…my way…” Even as Abraham who is referred to as the father of the faithful, he blew it big time, yet God still chose him and used him.
Kathy and I met while working in the ED at UNC hospitals (long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away) and both of us were still recovering from a marriage (with others) that had us realizing that such was not all roses and violins (or acoustic guitars, whatever instrument does it for you). We began dating, but had no plans to wed as we realized from both of our experiences that weddings do not a relationship make. We did eventually marry (October 29, 1982), but that was only the beginning of “…getting to know you…” and as we have learned more of each other’s peccadillos, we often do wonder about the wisdom of going ahead with the marriage. At one point Kathy had begun to think about divorce (‘once bitten, twice shy’ is one phrase I’ve heard), but kept hoping that the man she thought she’d married would show up. Then in 1987 I was indicted and eventually would be convicted and sentenced to prison; I told her that if she wanted to leave me I would understand. She did something then that still amazes me; she chose to remain married to me and continued in that marriage for the 23 years, 7 months and 25 days that I was incarcerated! Not because she knew that once out I would be the perfect man or would again be able to provide as I had before. She just chose to love me and that love has drawn me to her as a moth to a flame. Kathy knows more about me than any other person on the planet, yet she loves me and that fills me with a sense of acceptance and joy that I cannot begin to describe.
God, who knows me even better than Kathy (MUCH better), chose to Love me even before I was born; He knew what I would do throughout my life and how, even after surrendering my life to Jesus, I would (as Abraham) continue to ‘blow it,’ yet He lavishes His Love upon me. I ‘know’ God through His Word, through His people that I interact with, as well as through His creation as well as a myriad of other ways. I’ve never ‘met’ God face-to-face and my knowledge of Him is still miniscule compared to others and the idea of my knowing Him as He knows me is astounding to me. That can only occur when my journey is complete and I stand before Him completely stripped of the veneer we all carry; no more masks, no more pretending, just Tony with His Creator. I can experience some of that intimacy today and I seek that (I choose to do so despite the other choices I can make) daily. Is it because I expect God to make me rich or healthy? Do I love God for what He will do for me? If I only loved Kathy because she is able to provide for us both, it would be a paltry, colorless thing; if my love for God was only for what He could do for me, then that would be the saddest of all loves.
Knowing God is as my knowledge of my beloved Kathy; something that is an ongoing process that will reveal more and more of His character as time goes on. What is really exciting to me is that my growing in knowing God, I also grow in knowing Tony.

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