Just about a year ago, I gave up a job I loved (pastor of a great congregation) to do another job I love (writing and photography). In leaving this particular church, I also left the type of work I’ve done my whole adult life.
Until last spring, every time I started a new job, everyone knew my name when I walked in the door as pastor or, before that, Christian educator. I was the new employee.
Now, as my husband and I visit congregations, we’re relatively anonymous. It’s not a bad feeling, but it certainly is different. We are getting to know people in the usual manner—reaching out, shaking hands, starting conversations. It’s especially nice when someone reaches out to us and asks our names. Names are the best way to begin, and the way we become known to one another.
Of course, welcome and acceptance aren’t just things that happen within worshipping communities. They ought to be a part of who we are as human beings.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
There is a comfort in being known. As we get better acquainted with people we become more comfortable in joining them for social gatherings, asking for help, giving help.
There is also a challenge in being known. Our responsibilities toward each other grow. As the relationship expands, you begin to see faults in the other, and they in you.
Being known by God also engenders comfort and challenge. We are able to respond by changing the way we live: with confidence and assurance; with responsibility toward others and an awareness that how we act affects them; with a knowledge that all are known and cared for by God.
The challenge includes the impetus reach out to others who are isolated or lonely, who’ve been neglected by family, friends, or society. We make real the statements of Jesus when we make sure that others—all others—are acknowledged, welcomed, loved, befriended.
When we realize that all are known by God, we reach out to those who have been forgotten by society. And the cycle of knowing and being known continues and grows.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2016