Searched, Known, Loved – Sunday, July 19, 2020
Scripture focus: Psalm 139: 1-12, 23-24
We as a society aren’t good at being alone with ourselves. (This isn’t breaking news!)
Many of you are retired, I know, and live by yourselves or with your spouse, but I imagine there was an adjustment period between the ending of your or your spouse’s professional vocation and feeling comfortable with retirement.
Some say it’s a time of identity crisis. Who am I without a job to identify as what I do? It feels odd to say I used to do… or I used to be the… Once I was… Once I was something that now I am not. So who am I? Just saying, “I’m retired” doesn’t give another person a sense of who you are.
Some folks are able to find the answer quickly and be comfortable with their new self-identities. If I asked, who are you, I think most of you would tell me something about your character, something that is important to you and gives your life meaning. I think that’s a sign of successful transition to retirement and a good sign of maturity. You are more than who you were in a job.
It isn’t just retiring that brings about these times of asking ourselves who am I? Deciding on a college major or “what I want to be when I grow up” are identity questions. A change of job or vocation can raise this question and especially a sudden loss of a job.
During this time of pandemic when so many people who have lost their jobs, this question has lurked in the background of thousands and thousands of lives. Who am I now since I can’t identify myself with a job or profession?
For people who have been fearful of getting very sick and dying, the question lurks back there of who am I? and if I die, have I lived up to my hopes and dreams of who I would be? These are difficult questions to strive to answer.
This question of identity is difficult to answer and if it hasn’t quite reached our full consciousness to be dealt with, we act out, something feels out of kilter inside us. Even when it comes to mind, we start to squirm. Add to this social isolation and inability to enjoy everyday distractions and we squirm even more.
The combination of all of the current events in our lives has made for a very restless people.
You can see the unrest everywhere. Underneath the need to reopen our economy lies this subtle discomfort – we need to reopen so that we don’t have to deal with questions about ourselves that make us ill at ease…
Let me get back to the beach, to the bar, put me back to work or school so that I can have something to distract me. Let me play, let me have something to ease the pain, let me get busy with something! Let me be around people to distract me!
Retired folks have already had to do some of this work of “who am I when it’s just me,” which may be one reason we see fewer “older folk” having pool parties!
We’re having more time to consider existential things – why do I exist – and there’s only so long we can do that, especially if we think we are alone in the work.
I also think there is a spiritual side to the restlessness we are seeing in our country. For people of faith, “Who am I” leads to “who was I created to be? Who am I in God’s eyes?”
Into this time and place, this here and now, we can read Psalm 139.
O Lord, you have examined me. You know me through and through.
God knows me! God knows me better than I know myself! This shouldn’t be a surprise since God created each one of us!
God knows who I am and God knows who you are. God knows even ‘the “you” you hide.’*
We might feel uncomfortable with God knowing us inside out and knowing there is no place to hide who we are from God. I think we should be uncomfortable! This means we at least are keeping God “God” and are not deluding ourselves into thinking we could actually hide our imperfections, and thereby become more godly than God.
But we should also find comfort in being known by God. God knows (and loves) you. Wherever you go, God has your back. Wherever you are, God is there ahead of you. Even if there is something you’d rather avoid or escape or hide from, God is with you.
When we can’t figure out who we are – because of whatever life change we may have experienced – God knows who we are.
God’s Spirit has been with us every step of the way even when we may have tried to dig a hole to hide in, or fly away above the clouds, or dive to the bottom of the ocean. Even when we crawled off into a dark corner or suffered an experience that left us in darkness, God was with us.
God is with us – when we wake up, go about our everyday lives, and when we go to bed – ready to protect us from external threats and internal ones. When we are in physical peril or are trying to be independent from God, God holds fast to us, God’s hand is on us and leads us, we cannot flee from God’s Spirit or presence.
Take a moment to consider Jesus and his interactions with disciples and followers. What do you remember about some of these interactions – what did Jesus “know” about these people? Peter – you will betray me and you are the rock. Thomas -put your finger here. Martha – you are anxious about many things. The woman at the well – you’ve had many husbands. Zaccheus- “I’m coming for lunch” instead of “repent, you crooked tax collector.”
Jesus was out ahead of these folks – he knew them completely, sometimes even before he had any interactions with them, it seemed he had searched them inside and out. And most importantly, he loved them. Right? They weren’t perfect people. He knew them and loved them.
So also with us. If we are afraid of delving into who we are and especially afraid of doing that work knowing that we can’t escape from God even though we’d rather hide away and do it in the dark, then let’s rethink that. Jesus knows us already. Warts or age spots and all. We are loved. This is good news. There is no place we can flee from this love. No step we can take away from it.
Even the psalmist, who may have been David, had not led a perfect life and had done things he probably would prefer that God had not seen, even he wrote this psalm that ends with the request for God to search and test and know him, and to continue to lead him.
Can we also make this request and in confidence pray that God will continue to search and know us?
This is a prayer of desire for communion with God, we can pray it and relax into the knowledge that God is with us, not as a judge watching every move, but as one who loves us and wants us to be our best selves, and the more we can give in to this and give up our pride of self, the more we will get to know God and thereby get to know who we truly were created to be.
Then we will find peace and God will guide us to the places where God most needs us.
Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any errant way in me and guide me in the way everlasting. Amen.
~ Evie Doyon, July 2020