Next question

knownHow do you feel about being known? Perhaps like me, you long for it – but you’re scared of it too. Yesterday I quizzed Glen and that felt good! – but when the tables are turned and I’m in the answer seat, it’s a whole lot less comfortable.

Being known means letting others in: past the politeness and social niceties.  Past the chit-chat and past the masks.  Opening yourself up – to compliments and to criticism.  Considering the world – and your place in it – from an entirely different set of eyes.

The thing is, there are some things I want to keep in the dark.  Things I don’t want to find out and things I know, but pretend not to. Ignorance in this case, is like insurance: I don’t have to address a problem if I say it’s not there. An unhealthy relationship. A habit that’s gotten out of control. A mistake that needs to be addressed.  An apology I haven’t yet given.

Sorry – but I don’t know what you mean.

Problem is, there are some questions that demand answers.  Questions we answer with our lives, if not our lips. Questions like this:

Do I want to be in control, or do I want to be in relationship? I’m kidding myself if I think I can have both.

Or this:

What do I live for?  What do I dream about? When I look back on my life, what will I say it was all about?

Or how about this one:

Psalm 139 says of God: “You have searched me and you know me.” Do I realise that I’m already “an open book”? I might fool everyone else, but I am known, inside and out by the God of the universe. How do I feel about that?

Take a look at John 4. In this passage, the Samaritan woman holds a master-class in evading questions, avoiding scrutiny and missing the point. She knew she had plenty to hide and as a response, she’s an expert in deflection. However, one dose of truth from Jesus and she’s skewered:

He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’

‘I have no husband,’ she replied.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. (John 4:16-19)

She’s brought up short. Once more she tries to side-step the truth, but Jesus won’t let her. He tells it like it is (v20-24) – He’s not merely a prophet, He’s the Messiah. What now?

In her shoes I’d be thinking “It’s over! I’ve been found out – by the Messiah Himself!” But this woman understands the kind of Messiah that Jesus is. He’s the Spirit-filled One, who wants to share His living waters with her (v10, 13-14). He’s someone we can trust with our deepest secrets.

As soon as she encounters Jesus, she races to town saying, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ (v29) Suddenly, she’s happy about being exposed. In fact she wants the whole town to come to this Messiah – to hear Him speak out all the things we hide. It seems crazy – after all, who wants that?

Actually the whole town wants that (v30). In verses 39-42 we read how everyone believes in Jesus. Not Jesus, the Scary Scrutinizer of your soul. Jesus: the Saviour of the world (v42).  I wonder what kind of community that town then became? I wonder how they handled secrets from then on?

But what about me? What do I learn? John 4 tells me that there is someone who already knows my secrets. He’s not disgusted or daunted by them. I can run (and deflect, and dismiss, and banter) but I can’t hide. And the wonderful truth is, I don’t need to. When this Man finds me, it’s not as a prophet come to shame me. It’s as the Messiah who’s come to save me and set me free. Instead of blinding me, His light brings healing.

So I can pray without fear:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23-24)

4 thoughts on “Next question

  1. Thanks Emma. Your writing is always honest and interesting. Just to add to the conversation, I really like this alternative reading of the woman at the well, which presents a quite different view to many of the filters I was taught to read the story with: I don’t think Jesus does try to shame her or catch her out. It seems like a statement of fact confirming his knowledge of her and all about truth.

  2. Good question! But the sort of control I’m thinking of; where you have to be in charge of someone else, means that it’s never a horizontal friendship – someone has to be in control and this leads to all kinds of manipulation and abuse; not caring for the other person, but using them to bolster your own sense of self.

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