Thursday, March 15, 2018

Do You KNOW God? Does God KNOW You?

What does it mean to really know someone?  Some of us have been married for many decades to the same person and sometimes we think we may not really truly know them at all.  Some of us have friends that we have had for decades and we think we know everything about them that there is to know and suddenly they say or do something that totally surprises us.  To know someone is to be in their company on many occasions and to be open to them totally and unconditionally so that they feel comfortable being themselves and revealing their true selves and inner feelings to you.

When we truly get to know someone, we practice what is called "self-revelation" in which we reveal ourselves to them in ways that we may not do with others that we know in a more casual relationship.  When I was a school counselor I went to a counseling workshop once where we learned about a model called "Johari's Window".  It was a drawing of a window with 4 panes of glass in it, a bit like windows in older homes may have had.  In each pane of glass there was a description of the way we relate to one another.  "Known to self and to others" was one label.  "Not known to self but known to others" was another label.  Then, "Not known to self or others"  The final one was "Known to self but not to others". 

The model was created by two men named Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955.  They named it Johari's Window by combing their first names.  In the description of the meaning of the model, they say that we most often live in the area of "known to self but not to others", keeping our innermost thoughts to ourselves and revealing little about ourselves except to those whom we know we can trust with what we tell them.  When we open the part of the window that says "known to self and to others" and make it wider so that others know more about us, then the other windows become smaller, inviting greater intimacy and love into our lives. 

We rarely share our deepest feelings with others because we do not have a level of trust with them that would allow this intimate sharing of ideas and feelings.  It is only when we feel completely loved and accepted that we feel we can really open up and let others know who we truly are and know that we do not have to be afraid of their reaction.  They will accept us just as we are. 

God speaks to the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah with a word of forgiveness of grace.  God tells them that he will write a "new covenant" on their hearts to take the place of the former covenant that he made with their ancestors before they left the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  God says he tried to be their "husband" but they would not let him and instead turned to idolatry and failed to keep the commandments.  These to whom God is speaking are exiles, slaves in the land of Babylonia, who have been crying out to God for release.  God has brought about a miracle for them as Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians and has released the slaves to return to their homeland, Israel.  Soon, they will be walking the long road home and beginning the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall around Jerusalem under the direction of Ezra and Nehemiah. 

God wants these exiles to have a new understanding of the faith they have inherited from their ancestors.  It was a strange and mysterious faith, with God residing in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, not to be approached except by the High Priest once a week for forgiveness of their sins.  Now God wants to know them intimately.  God will write his covenant on their hearts and they will all know God.  No one will have to ask where God can be found because God will be found in the hearts and spirits of each person. 

This is not only a new covenant for Israel and its people but it is a new understanding of the God of Israel.  This understanding is of a God who cares, who has compassion on them, and who forgives and forgets the sin they had committed.  God says that God will no longer remember their sin but will "give them a heart to know that Yahweh is Lord and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart."  (24:7)

God is putting trust into this band of exiles that once they settle into life in Israel once again, then the knowledge of Yahweh will fill all the earth and they will truly know who this God is and will want to serve and love God. 

God has written God's covenant on our hearts also.  God has forgiven our sins and cast them as far as the east is from the west.  God has desired a relationship with each human being and wants all humans to come to God and know that God accepts them as they are.  God's covenant is one of love and grace that is greater than anything we can imagine.  The more we trust God with the deepest desires of our hearts and the most inner thoughts of our minds, the more we can be sure that God accepts us for who we are and loves us just as we are. 

God is the Creator and created us for life and goodness.  We are made in God's image and God knows us better than we know ourselves.  God's covenant is written on our hearts and God's Spirit lives within us.  As we open ourselves up to God's love and leading, God will direct us into how we can find greater happiness in life. 

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