Why do we avoid knowing others and being known?
It’s what we really want.
by Jason Hildebrand
Note: The bold sections below are excerpts from Jason’s film The Prodigal Trilogy.
“Heed me well, know my journey, never forget I am the younger son…elder son…father.”
My series of monologues on the story of the prodigal son land deeply in front of countless audiences across North America and the United Kingdom. It could be that audiences resonate with the radical reconnection of younger son to father in the throes of a child’s broken life, or the stubborn elitist attitude of elder son towards his younger brother.
However, what I think speaks most powerfully to an audience is the father’s heart for his children. He longs for them to know him and be known by him.
“[When I returned] he fell at my feet and cried and cried. Then he stood to his feet, grasped me by my shoulders and just looked at me. For a really long time he just looked.” (Younger Son)
I too long for this—to be known. I think I am not alone. We want those close to us to grasp at least a bit of who we are. In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman says one of the languages is receiving gifts.
This happens to be the one most suited to me. I love getting gifts—but not just any gifts. No! Don’t go buying me stuff I don’t need or something you would like. I love gifts that tell me you know who I am—like great dark roast fair-trade coffee, or a rare U2 mix, or an iPhone (if they are ever affordable in Canada).
I will never forget Christmas a number of years ago when my wife totally surprised me with a gift. The presents had already been opened and we were cleaning up. Then out of nowhere another box appeared. And not just any box. This was a big box. After much research, she bought me a Panasonic 5 DVD changer…beautiful. I was blown away. But the best part was not the gift. The best part…I felt known.
If I had that memorable a moment from a now obsolete DVD player, how much more important is it that my Father God knows me even better than my wife and longs for me to know him.
But things get in the way…
“You see, he gave up his sonship, for the lure of the world. Not pure and holy, like from above, but dark and sensuous, born from below. With experiences meant to excite and addict, not to free. I find it fascinating how lust and greed often seem more enticing than pure unending love.” (The Father)
How many times have we come through a time of being known, or even just starting to feel known—a place of intimacy with a spouse, a friend, or with God. And then, instead of drawing deeper into the relationship, we run in the opposite direction.
For some reason, I find myself in this place a lot lately. Instead of sitting down and digging into that which I truly long for, I bolt for things far less satisfying in the long run. You know, the Costco grocery run that nosedives into an all-out purchasing bonanza. Did I really need that juicer, BBQ and full James Bond DVD set?
Or, we run to distraction with too much television or sports. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was on the road performing in Tennessee. I felt I should be spending my off-time drawing close to God, getting into His presence. What did I do? Bought Heroes Season 1. Was it brilliant? Yes! Was I running from being known? Yes!!
The other thing that gets in the way of being known is bad theology.
“I will never, never forget the moment of my son’s returning. There I was out in my fields working away, always one eye on my work and one eye on the road—watching, waiting for my children to come home. And then he was just there, in the distance. My jaw dropped. I let go of what I was doing. I stood to my feet and began to run to my child, arms wide open these old legs pumping away.” (The Father)
There is a lie I was taught in church growing up. It is a lie that has devastated many people I have known over the years. Well, it’s a partial lie. Here goes. For years, the evangelical church has taught that I am a piece of junk (not just me personally—everyone). And, it’s a good thing Jesus came or I would be in big trouble.
I remember being at numerous Bible studies and small groups challenging the leadership on this issue. It just didn’t feel right to me. It didn’t make sense that a loving Father God would look at me like this. I believe this lie is one of the reasons I had a hard time wanting to know God deeply early on in my walk with him. I didn’t want to open myself up to a God who thought of me as worthless.
What I have since come to realize, and thankfully this theology is creeping its way back into Christ-centred faith-based communities, is that my imperfection or sinfulness is only one half of the equation.
The truth is that God values me incredibly. I am deeply loved and created in God’s image. And so are you. He thinks we’re amazing. So much so that he sent Jesus, His boy, to the Earth, to validate us as men and women and redeem our lives. This is the paradox and mystery of the Christ-centred faith. It lets us know that despite our flaws, God is deeply in love with us and longs to be strongly connected.
And that is the point isn’t it—to be known by God and to know him deeply? It is the root of all that we are and ever hope to be. The enemies of our souls will keep having us believe that we can be known and find meaning through consumption of stuff. The enemies of our souls will have us stuck in bad theology.
But the heart of Father God yearns to fill the void in our hearts and bring restoration to our lives. I see it every time I am on stage, as people bravely enter into the truth of who they are before God within the community of audience. It is a holy time, a time of communion.
Jason Hildebrand is a professional actor, dramatist and communication coach. He has performed in theatre, film and television, and continues to tour the globe with his acclaimed solo performances. For more information please visit: jasonhildebrand.com
The article above was featured in the July/August 2008 issue of SEVEN magazine.