DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Knowing or Being Known

Written by: on January 15, 2015

Spending a great deal of time each week listening to people: their fears, hopes, failures and aspirations, is a continual education. It teaches me much about the importance of genuine relationships and the meaning derived from those relationships. For some, just having someone to actively listen can provide an assurance about the strength of their foundation and the direction they are heading. For others, there is a realization, in taking time to listen to their own words, that they live with a deep seated instability which, if ignored, can have long lasting effects.

Some people look for affirmation. Some people look to achieve. Some people desire status (whether that’s financial or simply the number of “likes” we generate on our social media profiles). Some people just look to be connected to people who do or are the things they aspire to and find their worth in those circles. The reality is that all those pursuits will be found to lack sustaining meaning and purposeful fulfillment. They may keep us busy and they may bring a rise in our emotional pleasure – but they will ultimately lack meaning, causing us to live with hidden regret and veiled contentment.

In The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, David Brooks relates the many paths through which a person can journey through life in the hopes of fulfillment. Through the life of Harold and Erica we see how two very different people, from diverse backgrounds, pursue goals and search for meaning in ways that ultimately leave them unfulfilled (at least that’s my impression). The book elicits more questions, and certainly invites reflection within its capacity to provide many points of connections with our pursuit for meaning.

When it comes to speaking about character, Brooks, seems to leave the opening for solutions that aren’t easy to find in normal social constructs:

  • “We are good at teaching technical skills, but when it comes to the most important things, like character, we have almost nothing to say.” (Loc. 131-132)
  • “The reality is that intelligence is a piece of mental ability, but it is not the most important piece. People who score well on IQ tests are good at logical, linear, and computational tasks. But to excel in the real world, intelligence has to be nestled in certain character traits and dispositions.” (Loc. 2809-2811)
  • “Everything came down to character, and that meant everything came down to the quality of relationships, because relationships are the seedbeds of character.” (Loc. 5294-5298)

 

When it comes to our capacity to “know”, Brooks also reveals the insufficiency in it’s pursuit:

  • “Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. Epistemological modesty is the knowledge of how little we know and can know. Epistemological modesty is an attitude toward life. This attitude is built on the awareness that we don’t know ourselves. Most of what we think and believe is unavailable to conscious review. We are our own deepest mystery.” (Loc. 4089-4092)
  • “Very often social impulses conflict with one another….Our virtues do not fit neatly together into a complementary or logical system. We have many ways of seeing and thinking about a situation, and they are not ultimately compatible.” (Loc. 4760-4763)

 

On my desk there is a quote. It has been there for the last thirteen years, ever since my brother, sisters and I chose to put it on my father’s funeral card. It’s a quote that reminded us of the manner in which he continually challenged us:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

MLK

It’s a quote from one of the greatest historical influences on my own life: Martin Luther King Jr.; whose enduring legacy we commemorate on January 19th. It’s a quote that reminds me that my position, status and accomplishments are very secondary to the manner in which my life is conducted or as Dr. King would say, “the content of my character”.

It’s a quote that also reminds me that the content of my character is shaped, in part by allowing the influence of Eternity to infuse my day to day life. Certainly it is an acknowledgement that we are shaped by our life circumstances. However we are not defined by those circumstances or even by our social connections within those circumstances.


 

Ultimately character is forged and our desire for “knowing” is abated (even satisfied) by the assurance that comes from being “known” by Our Loving Heavenly Father. That’s the promise that is found in the Apostle Paul’s ancient words to a group of people who struggled to connect socially. His directive was not to first finding meaning in their association, but to first find meaning through their shared belonging to the Father, which comes as a result of their faith in Christ. Our ultimate response to the love of God will be demonstrated in our openness to allow others to discover that same liberating truth, knowing that we all share the same desire: we want to be known, fully, despite the fact that our knowledge is incomplete.

That’s why conversations, small or long are worthwhile. That’s why assemblies, congregations and communities of faith, who are purposeful at providing space for people to discover the immense privileges of being known, are crucial. Every person’s story is important as within each story lies the pieces through which the desire to be known can be heard, discerned and ultimately met by Our God.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

(1 Corinthians 13:12)

Our social connections no matter what shape they take, unless they allow us to be known by God, will ultimately leave us unfulfilled. Just ask Harold and Erica.

  • What are some of the ways in which our communities of faith can improve their capacity to allow people be “known” by God?
  • If achievement, social status and productivity aren’t ultimately fulfilling, what are the indications, for an individual of “being known” by God?

About the Author

mm

Deve Persad

15 responses to “Knowing or Being Known”

  1. Michael Badriaki says:

    Deve, great job on this post! This is the beauty in having the opportunity to read other cohort mates’ blogs. I found Brook’ book helpful and certainly a resource for my library. However, I am going to have to read through it again in order to allow for a broader reflection.

    Like you, I enjoyed David Brook’s take on the issue of Character. I found the extremely helpful because I am the process of organizing, planning and praying on how myself and a group of global ambassadors of Christ might help in providing a revitalized space of the education of children in Uganda for the 21 century. Character development is critical for us, along with other goals.

    I loved your follow up to MLK’s quote, “It’s a quote that reminds me that my position, status and accomplishments are very secondary to the manner in which my life is conducted or as Dr. King would say, “the content of my character.”

    How do you propose such a remember can be emphasized for Pastors who are training for ministry?

    Thank Deve!

    • Deve Persad says:

      That’s an excellent question Michael. Continually reminding leaders, particularly ministry leasers, is something that I think is critical for their long term service and the health of the organizations in which they serve. So often we reward based on performance and achievement to the neglect of character development. In so doing harmful characteristics creep in and are left unattended. My opinion, is that an intentional form of accountability and affirmation based on character should be part of the ongoing development of leaders.

  2. mm Julie Dodge says:

    As always, Deve, well thought and well written. So I thought I’d tackle one of your questions, specifically, how we as communities of faith can allow people to be known by God. I think that is not about God knowing us, but about us knowing and believing that God knows us. It takes me to Brooks’ discussion about attachment. When our early attachment is secure, it is easier to incorporate the constancy of God on our lives. But for many of us who did not experience the best early attachment, the body of Christ can help develop that attachment. In small and consistent was, as we welcome, accept and love one another, we provide tangible, multiple, repeated examples of God’s love. Greeting one another, conversations over coffee, helping one another on home projects, all provide opportunities to increase one another. But the challenge is genuineness. As institutions we may incorporate greeters and stop our services to greet one another, but more often these are experienced by the receiver as contrived, especially early in the relationship. Jesus said we are to love one another. Perhaps we should focus more in encouraging opportunities to love each other, and ask our people to pray and wrestle with how they can love and be with one another.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Julie, I just got off the phone dealing with a ministry situation that calls for the exact solution you are advocating. Prayer, encouragement and community seem so simple but they are not natural and therefore require intentionality.

  3. Richard Volzke says:

    Deve,
    I appreciate how you pointed out the many ways people try to find justification and so forth with the tools of this world. It amazes me how we constantly look for ways to satisfy our need for acceptance. The world has so infused itself in the lives of Christians that we measure our self-worth by its standards. When are we going to turn towards Christ and see our self-worth through his eyes? Reading your post reminded me of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man defined himself by his wealth and privilege within society and saw no worth or value in the life of Lazarus. The rich man found out he really had nothing, while Lazarus went to heaven and gained his reward.
    Richard

    • Deve Persad says:

      That’s a perfect example, Richard. Thanks for sharing it, such a crucial reminder from Jesus. Great question, “when” will we turn to Jesus? I guess, we’ll never know the timing, therefore we must continue to encourage and challenge people toward those ideals.

  4. Deve,

    Happy New Year, my good friend! I always read your post first and I am never disappointed. Thank you for sharing.

    I loved your comments: “That’s why conversations, small or long are worthwhile. That’s why assemblies, congregations and communities of faith, who are purposeful at providing space for people to discover the immense privileges of being known, are crucial. Every person’s story is important as within each story lies the pieces through which the desire to be known can be heard, discerned and ultimately met by Our God.” I agree wholeheartedly.

    Yesterday, I had an opportunity of being a part of my first “talking circle” at the home of my Native-American advisor Randy Woodley. It was a fascinating time to participate in a ceremony that encouraged people to be transparent and vulnerable. As the stick was passed, it was amazing to hear the honest thoughts and testimonies that were shared around the circle. Not being the “touchy-feely” type, I wondered what I would say when the stick came to me. Would I say something or would I pass? I wondered how much I wanted to be known by this group that I only met for the first time that day. When I finally took the stick, I only shared a short bit about myself and my own journey, but it was transparent and I certainly felt vulnerable. I guess I would say that it was “appropriate disclosure.” But was it enough? It is too late to go back and change what I shared, but I wonder what will happen next month when we meet again? Will I be more open? I will let you know.

    Deve, I would love to someday come and visit your church. I have a feeling that your people are honest and transparent and that you have a community that loves one another. They are blessed to have you as a pastor, one who is willing to know and be known. What an encouraging thought. I hope to meet this community someday.

    • Deve Persad says:

      Hey there Professor, thanks for your input. Your experiences are very fascinating to me and this is no exception. Authenticity and vulnerability are certainly keys to genuine community and a culture where being “known” is cultivated. Those are challenges, even in christian circles (or maybe especially). Certainly, in my own life, there are people with whom I can be completely myself, unafraid of my faults – it is within these relationships that I feel most encouraged to be all that God desires me to be and to pursue those desires He has placed on my heart.

  5. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Deve, this is a great post!
    I’m struggling a little bit with the way you ended this post… this idea of being “known by God.”
    You say, “our social connections no matter what shape they take, unless they allow us to be known by God, will ultimately leave us unfulfilled.” Can you rephrase this, or what do you mean by “known by God”… God knows us… but sometimes we don’t know that he knows… Am I overthinking it?

    • Deve Persad says:

      Stefania, you are definitely not overthinking it. You’re exactly right, often we forget just how intimately God knows us. When we truly understand just how uniquely privileged we are – that should change the way we approach the circumstances of our lives. Our value is being first and foremost children of God, created in His image, the special workmanship of His hands, given life for His distinct eternal purposes…it doesn’t get better than that!!

  6. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Deve,
    Thank you for this post.
    From your post, I am remembering how appreciative I was first reading through Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning in undergrad psych too many years ago now. I imagine you may have read it; it’s really a worthwhile read if you haven’t had the chance. It is a book about Frankel’s finding and sustaining meaning through his experiences in Auschwitz. As you might imagine, it’s intense, but deeply important. In the book he comes to a conclusion many of us can affirm and then spend a lifetime figuring out, “man’s [sic] salvation is in love and through love.”

    • Deve Persad says:

      Clint, thanks for the tip…I haven’t read it, but will definitely look into it. Your input is always appreciated.

      • Hey there Professor, thanks for your input. Your experiences are very fascinating to me and this is no exception. Authenticity and vulnerability are certainly keys to genuine community and a culture where being “known” is cultivated. Those are challenges, even in christian circles (or maybe especially). Certainly, in my own life, there are people with whom I can be completely myself, unafraid of my faults – it is within these relationships that I feel most encouraged to be all that God desires me to be and to pursue those desires He has placed on my heart.

  7. Hey Deve, overall a great insightful post on Brooks book. I caught the sadness in the completion of the life lived by Harold with the questions of what is a well lived life and what does it all matter. I love your quote “Ultimately character is forged and our desire for “knowing” is abated (even satisfied) by the assurance that comes from being “known” by Our Loving Heavenly Father.” I tell my third child that she must learn to live loved. That no matter what takes place in her live, she is loved by a mother and a father but even more loved by a heavenly father. There is a great little book by Dudley Hall “Orphans No More: Learning to live loved.” I taught the concepts to pastors and leaders in Kenya. It really went over well. They caught the heart of not acting in that orphan mentality. We are known by our loving heavenly father, yet it is a struggle for many, and at times for me, to rest in that life changing knowledge when the emotional side of life is screaming other messages. How do you help your people get that message from head knowledge down into heart knowledge? Blessings Mitch

  8. Deve Persad says:

    Mitch,

    Thanks for the comment and for sharing your insights on this. I love that line “learn to live loved”. I’ll have to find some time to check into that book, looks like it’s right up my research alley.

    As for getting that message across in our context…it takes time and being intentional about finding non-crisis moments to help people understand it, always directing them back to the Lord, His Word and learning to trust His Spirit. Then, as leaders we get to be cheerleaders as they take steps of simple obedience. At least that’s where we’re starting with it. Thanks for asking!

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