The Fear of being known

During my first week into my residency I was given my very first “special mission” (or task, as Jeelisa calls it). My supervisor asked me to watch a video called Godspeed and said it would blow me away. I figured it was going to be a super extravagant attention grabbing film and it was, just not in the way I expected at all.

I would prefer that you watch the video rather than me explain it all but if not, I’ll give you a quick summary of the concept and idea of it all.

This short film/documentary is all about a priest who wanted to become a better pastor. He is given advice by one of his mentors, Eugene Peterson, “Matt, if you want to become a good pastor then go find a parish. A fishbowl, where you lose the fear of being known and can’t escape it.” So Matt does just that. He and his family pack up and move to Scotland! To the small community of St. Andrews Parish. Knowing he needed a job, Matt applied at the local church in the parish and got the job. When he got to the church for his first day of work he asked the priest, “where is my office at?”  The priest then walked him to the front of the church and on the church sign he pointed to his telephone number. Then pointed out toward the neighborhood and said, “Start walking. Get out into the parish”. 

This sets the tone for the whole film. Through a series of multiple events Matt begins to learn the importance of relationships. Just simply talking to people and even scarier, letting himself be known by others. After all, isn’t this what Jesus did? He had his own small parish of 12 that he knew and invested in intimately. He walked the streets, being available for everyone and building relationships with anyone.

How foreign is this to our western culture who are so accustomed to always being on the run toward something constantly? When was the last time you talked to your neighbor or went door to door talking to those whom you live amongst with the intention of simply having a relationship rather than needing or wanting something from them? Jesus didn’t do ministry that way. So why do we think more lights, better attractions, nice buildings and fancy clothes is an entry way to discipleship and building a community to pastor? We are all guilty of this in some fashion or another. Instead of spending time at the mall finding the right stage outfit I should be in the neighborhoods of those who attend our church being a need and building relationships not approval idols. For years I have looked out from a platform and seen faces of strangers and those who I need to see my worth. When all along I should have been seeing stories.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way, “We have an anxiety of being intimate and known by name because a lot of times we are scared that they’re not going to like us”.

I have always had a fear of being known. Not knowing what will happen if all that I am, the real me, is made known to someone and my every actions of my life is magnified in the circle of my community (accountability). It’s true. We all have become so good at hiding who we truly are underneath the status quo of what is supposed to be. We pretend to be something that we are not and put on a show for all to see or just simply to try and relate to others. This is what has created such a huge disconnect between the those on the platform and those on in the seats for me.

The other day I was at University of Texas campus for one of our events we had that night and I was talking to a couple who had just gotten engaged. They were sharing their story with me and how they met and eventually fell in love. Long story short they met in college through some friends and hit it off quite well. The crazy part to me is that their whole lives they grew up less than 30 minutes from each other and did not even know either of them existed until college, 18 years later.

That is the culture we live in today. Where social media gives us a new identity; literally, cell phones create a false illusion of proximity and we substitute sex, money, and other exploitive things for genuine relationships. Not only do we become numb to others around us and forget the beauty of trust but we don’t ever fulfill what God intended for us with His creation and ultimately with Him. Community.

So how intentional are you with those in your proximity and community around you. And I don’t just mean the people you’re comfortable with or that are just like you. I mean how intentional are you with those who you never talk to or maybe avoid so that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort. It’s just a simple conversation that builds a small relationship, that creates trust for another, that ultimately leads to what God intends for it to be. Don’t over spiritualize it. Do you want to waste 18 years or longer of your life missing the freedom that comes with being known by others and the joy of being apart of a community that simply knows one another for who they truly are? Or do you want to keep going your whole life, like me, being crippled by the fear of being known and subjected to the thoughts of others approval because I only saw their faces, not their stories.

I want to be known for something rather than known as someone and trust me, it’s not worth it. Because this is not our home and the things of earth will fade but the way we care for others in our relationships will have a never ending impact on their eternal souls and the ones they come in contact with.

So is the fear of being known and knowing others going to cripple you or motivate you?


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