On Monday, I wrote about the five things God says we are: known, loved, wanted, precious & free. Here’s more about being known.
Ethan Renoe was jogging in Chicago on a rainy night in December 2015 when a reporter asked to interview him about the unusual amount of rain Chicago was getting. After a short, shirtless, on-camera interaction, Ethan spontaneously looked into the camera and said, “I’m single!”
Girls went wild over the news clip. Ethan says that before he got back to his apartment that night, the clip had already been viewed 24,000 times (it’s now been viewed more than 1 million times!) MTV dubbed it “The Jog Seen ‘Round The World.” CBS named him “The Sexiest Man on Earth.” The Internet dubbed him “Ethan the Shirtless Wonder.” He got requests for interviews. He was offered a TV show. He was nominated for The Bachelor.
Ethan wrote a profound article for Relevant magazine this month called, “The Surprisingly Depressing Experience of Going Viral.”
He talked about the experience of skyrocketing into viral video fame, and how empty it was. “…while I became Internet famous, what I did not become was known,” he wrote.
If we’re not careful, we can experience the same phenomenon in our own lives — becoming more visible but less known. We can spend hours interacting with people on Facebook or via text messages without anyone seeing our face or hearing the tone in our voice. We can start to form an identity based on the number of followers we get on Instagram or Twitter. We can garner self esteem points from how many times our clever thought is retweeted, or how many hits our website gets.
When we confuse being “seen” for being “known,” we get lonely, depressed, isolated and even unstable.
You don’t have to look much further than celebrities who live on a steady diet of adoration and fandom — only to crash fast and hard — to see that human beings were made for more connection than we can possibly get from fans and followers. We can’t survive on people who only adore us from a distance.
There have been lots of studies done on what makes people happy, and the studies always reach a common conclusion. What makes us happy is not money or things; it’s connection. God designed us this way — not just to be seen by passing glances, but to be deeply known by him and by each other.
I’ve struggled with feeling seen versus known over the past few years. Since “The Invisible Girls” launched 2013, I’ve flown 183,700 miles and done 55 separate speaking events. Most of the time I travel by myself, which means I spend an inordinate amount of time alone.
I love what I do, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each event — and I’m looking forward to doing more traveling and speaking this spring.
But it took me a while to figure out how to do this in a healthy, sustainable way. It took me a while to figure out why, when I was interacting with more people than I ever had in my life, I was the loneliest I’d ever been.
Ethan’s article describes this so well — how important it is to not only be seen, but known.
Learning that I am deeply known has led me into a deeper relationship with God. Understanding that I’m never alone has turned unhealthy loneliness into life-giving solitude. It’s transformed isolation into intimacy.
It has also made me intentional about prioritizing the deep, long-standing relationships I have with family and friends. When I get to have in-person time with the people who know me and love me best, I savor it. I soak it in. I need to be known — by God, and by people who love me and see me up close.
How about you, my friend? Do you feel isolated? Lonely? Anonymous? Do you compulsively check Facebook to see how many people liked your selfie? Does the number of Instagram “likes” become the barometer for how you feel about yourself? Do you feel like God is distant — or absent? Do you crave someone who knows your quirks and flaws and passions? Someone who knows how to make you laugh, and how to comfort you when you cry?
One of the deepest, most nourishing truths is that you are known by the God who desired you into existence. The One who is closer to you than your own breath.
The Bible is filled with details of how intimately God knows you. He knows the number of hairs on your head, the number of days you’ll live, the secrets of your hearts, the prayers for which you can find no words. He knows when you get up in the morning and when you lie down at night. You are engraved on the palm of his hand. When you are in pain, his heart hurts more than yours does.
We see these same truths reflected in Jesus when he was on earth. He not only noticed people; he knew them. In John 1, Jesus picks Nathanael as a disciple and says, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
Nathanael is stunned. “How do you know me!?”
When it sinks in how known he is by Jesus — who knew Nathanael long before Nathanael knew who Jesus even was — Nathanael realizes that this is the Messiah, and he lays down his life to follow Jesus.
Jesus also knows the potential of Matthew, the despised tax collector. He knows Zacchaeus, the wee little man who is hiding up in the tree because he wants to see without being seen. Jesus knows the woman at the well and the thief on the cross.
Today, dear, beloved child of God, pause to take a deep breath and let this truth settle deep in your soul: No matter how alone you are, how isolated you feel, how invisible you your life seems to the rest of the world, you are deeply, fully, intimately known by the One who delights in you.
If you can, carve out some time today contemplate these questions.
What does it mean to you that you’re known?
Is there something you can do as a daily practice to become more intimately acquainted with the God who knows you?
Is there something you can do in your life to know — and be known by — the people around you?