November 4, 2015

When You Want to Be Known and Understood

I recognize in myself a deep desire to be known and understood. From Facebook and Twitter, I gather that we all have this desire in common; there is almost a desperate and sometimes angry clamor for others to understand the challenges associated with everything from certain occupations to marital statuses to joys and griefs. All these words ("Open Letters", anyone?) may have only served to make us afraid--afraid to say the wrong thing, afraid to empathize or relate, and afraid to even enter into the lives of others.
I have been the desperate and angry clamorer, even on this very blog. I have at times craved for those around me to walk in my shoes, and this craving, I admit, has led to self-righteousness and self-pity and subsequent pain for others. Even when some have tried to walk in my shoes, internally I've pounced on their efforts: It's not enough. You don't get it.

Do you know why it's not enough? Do you know why this desire turns to craving and gives birth to resentment? Do you know why we're so easily hurt and offended, even when others try to enter our griefs?

Because we've taken a good desire to be known and understood and laid it, seeking, at the feet of people. We've crafted people into our gods, requesting a satisfying drink of validation and love out of broken cisterns. We've believed that if people just finally understood, somehow the challenges we face would be eased or erased all together. Somehow we'd find peace in the midst of our difficulty. Somehow we'd feel better. Somehow we'd be satisfied.

A sense of satisfaction does come for a time, and this is the elusive elixir we seek, although it vanishes as quickly as it came through the cracks in the cistern. We're left with more hurt and more resentment, which only makes us louder and harsher in our clamoring. It's not enough! You don't get it!

Do you know why it's not enough? Because only God can know us fully. Proverbs 14:10 says, "The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy." In other words, no one can fully know our joys or our griefs. We can spend 50 years sleeping next to someone and they will never know us anywhere close to how God knows us already at this very moment. Other people don't have the capacity that God does, so we shouldn't expect God-like capacity from them.

The good news is that we have the Christ. Through Him, we have access to the ear of our Father God, who actually requests that we throw all of our needs and cares upon His strength. He is a cistern that doesn't break, who can handle our deepest pain without running away or offending. And in trusting Him, it becomes perfectly okay to be a little misunderstood by others. Because we're safe, being watched over and nurtured in the most intimate parts of ourselves.

So we share with others what we're feeling and how we're struggling through life, yes, but not with the expectation that they will meet all of our needs. Our greatest efforts, instead, go into seeking to understand others-- entering into the griefs and joys of others as much as we humanly can, offering compassion and truth and mercy. This is biblical friendship, this is the Church--esteeming others above ourselves and bringing one another over and over into the love and care of our Father, not seeking a savior in anything but the Savior.