Known rather than knowing

Known rather than knowing

Thursday, 26 May 2016  | Phil - Director Ranges TEC
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” Kofi Annan

“I think, therefore I am.” Descartes

Is this the sum of human existence? Are we defined by the knowledge we hold and possess? Who are we, if for some reason knowledge of ourselves, a particular topic, or our surroundings disappears? I wonder about reflecting on this in a school setting given that the acquisition of knowledge is a fairly important pastime in this environment. I figure I’m amongst friends so why not?

My reading of scripture and personal journey tend to suggest knowing about someone or something may be less important than being known by someone. I wonder if, in being known by God, we are made human, seen in the image of God and consequently made valuable and valued.

Our faith tradition often emphasises knowing God rather than being known by God. There is no doubt we can and should pursue a deeper understanding of God, but Paul in his letter to the Galatians writes, “Earlier before you knew God personally, you were enslaved to so-called gods that had nothing of the divine about them. But now that you know the real god, or rather since God knows you, how can you possibly subject yourselves again to those paper tigers?” The primacy of being known by God is clear. Once again in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul’s thoughts appear dominated by being known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12).

This thought has become particularly important to me as I get older. I am more exposed to my own frailties but also more attuned to the emotional and physical frailties of others. This is nowhere more evident than in encounters with my ageing mother. As I watch and relate with her, it is evident her world is diminishing. The people she knows and have been known by are passing away. She can no longer undertake the activities she once did, and her memory, wit and sharp mind become less reliable each day.

This has become more obvious following her recent surgery. I have spent time sitting with her as her grip on reality fades. I have watched as her knowing of the other and herself waxes and wanes. Paradoxically, during these times I have also been keenly aware of her being known: known by her friends, her family and most emphatically by God. Through this it has become more and more evident to me that this ‘being known by God’ is the reality that grounds our existence and sense of self. It offers us the mercy and grace to relate to others with new understanding.

In seeing Mum’s journey reflected by being known by God, I am also drawn to reflect on her life and witness. I am drawn more and more to Paul’s words “We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us. But for right now, until that completion we have three things to do to lead us towards that consummation: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Mum, like of all us, has struggled in much of her life but amidst the death of two husbands, nursing dying parents and living through the Great Depression she has always been known by God. Her imperfections have been seen but her reflection has so often been the one God reveals (known). Her ability to trust, hope and love are hallmarks of her life because she is known.

As I get to know students and parents at Ranges TEC, I am reminded by Mum’s witness to see that they too are known by God. I am keenly aware that their imperfections are not what God knows. I am reminded to trust he has a plan for them, to hope it will come to fruition and to love them, despite my own failings. Theirs, and my own identity are not dependent on what we know, what we think, or how much information we have and control. Rather it is dependent on being known by God and anticipating a day when we will know Him as directly (fully) as He knows us.

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