We keep waking up to how many ways the covid pandemic has touched every aspect of our life. The distancing many of us experienced took its toll and we screamed to be heard. The truth the psalmist offers to us in Psalm 139 that God searches for us and knows us is good news. The truth that the early church proclaims that we are groping for God and God was never far away is great news. God is searching us out and knows us—take that in for a minute. The Reverend Charlie Strobel, a Catholic priest who is one of the saints in Nashville, who started Room in the Inn and the Campus for Human Development, is one of my dearest friends. I remember a long time ago when he was reading from Mathew 17 the line if we are not living into this will of God, someday Jesus may say, “I never knew you.” Charlie professed, “Those are the coldest words in scripture.” For someone to say to you, “I never knew you,” is cold because our deepest desire is to be known, to be loved. What does it mean to be known? To be known means you are willing to be hurt. To be known, you have to share your intimacies and vulnerabilities and that means I am willing to let you hurt me. I am willing for my creator, who knows and loves me, to see my vulnerability and weaknesses. If we hold that stuff in, it is hard to be known. It is amazing to feel like I can be in a safe enough space to trust those parts of me. I think part of the reason the Thistle Farms community has lasted for so long and has grown is that we try to say, “This is a safe space to be known, to expose your vulnerability.” We try to say, “Be willing to trust Love enough to discover that within our vulnerability is great strength.” To be known means you are brave enough to search your own heart. I think just like in scripture that says love God, love neighbor, love self—the oldest and greatest commandment—the same principle applies. We need to know ourselves, others, and God. We have to be willing to continue to search our hearts. To be known means I am going to continue to look inward and say, “This is where I need to grow, this is the muse that is speaking to me, this is where I am being led, this is where I am broken.” To be known means you are willing to live with longing your whole life. Does anyone think communion, where you get a sip of wine and a taste of bread, sates our hunger? It is the longing to be known that propels us back into the world to seek truth and justice. It is that propelling that allows us to be intimate with our community, our partners, our family, our friends. This longing is the poet’s muse. It is when we live on the fringe of the fabric that we can see the beautiful pattern. It’s not a curse. It’s a gift. It’s a gift to feel longing. Unrequited love keeps our desire for love strong. It is in our experience of searching we become assured that God is searching too. We search together. When I became a mom, I spent hours and hours beholding our first-born son. I could count the hairs on his head. I could describe the soft peach fuzz above his right ear and the way his left ear was a tiny bit different. I knew the way his cheek moved when he started to drift off to sleep, and when the first freckle emerged on his neck. Being known is something like God beholding us like a child, knowing us before we say a word, before we know anything about ourselves, we have been searched out and known and loved. It is easy to say no one knows me; it is harder to proclaim I am known. I have been searched out and God knows me. He knows my comings and my goings. If I make the heavens my bed, God is there with me and if I sail to the uttermost part of the sea, God is there with me as well. In that deeper, more truthful knowledge of being known, we reach out to another. We remind one other, even in a pandemic, we have searched for you and we know you. A big danger in this pandemic is that people feel forgotten and not searched for. The very small things we do to reach out are big things.
This summer as part of a local outreach we brought people a pineapple, and they wept. When in my lifetime have people wept over receiving a piece of fruit? It means the world to be known, to search and know someone. So in gratitude for all the ways we have been known and loved, reach out and remember our neighbor. That is what love looks like today. Peace and love.
— Becca Stevens