The following is an excerpt from Jesse Eubanks’ new eBook “KNOWN: How to Connect with God & Other People Through Your Life Story” available as a free PDF download here.
The Apostle Paul said his greatest desire in life was to know Christ. That’s a pretty good aspiration.
However, we can’t know someone else if we don’t know ourselves. Here is what I mean.
A few years ago I was in a bad spot in life.A few years ago I was in a bad spot in life. My marriage was really struggling because of my preoccupation with work. The ministry I had just inherited was on the edge of bankruptcy. Some couples get passive- aggressive when they fight. Not us. We were like jilted latin lovers – dramatic and loud. I’ll save all the details for some other time but let’s just say that I learned about the velocity of a big gulp soda as it traveled from my hand to the kitchen wall. I was as shocked as my wife was at the words that sometimes came out of my mouth.
We struggled to trust each other and neither of us felt understood. Obviously, Lindsay and I needed some help making sense of the crisis we were experiencing.
Apparently, many Christian leaders are great at paying attention to the needs of other people’s souls while ignoring their own.We started spending time with a man named Rich Plass. Rich is in his 60’s and works as a counselor and spiritual life coach. He used to be a pastor but now works with Christian leaders. Apparently, many Christian leaders are great at paying attention to the needs of other people’s souls while ignoring their own. We regularly joke that spending time with him is like hanging out with C.S. Lewis and Robin Williams’ character from Good Will Hunting at the same time. He’s one of the wisest men I know.
Rich was the first one to tell me that my lack of self-awareness was hurting my relationship with my wife and with God.
Rich was the first one to tell me that my lack of self-awareness was hurting my relationship with my wife and with God.He pointed out that I worked too much, wasn’t hearing my wife when she talked to me, and needed to consider making some changes to my rhythms in life before I made things worse. In addition, he also pointed out that I regularly mistrusted both God and Lindsay. He said I often assumed people were not for me and it caused me to say and do things I regretted. I had withdrawn from Lindsay and from God and was completely oblivious to it.
This is what happens when we don’t know ourselves. We fail to understand our side of a relationship.Over time, Rich helped me to begin believing that God really did love me and was for me. Of course, I had preached dozens of sermons telling people God loved them but I didn’t know myself well enough to realize that I had stopped preaching this to myself. This is what happens when we don’t know ourselves. We fail to understand our side of a relationship.
I know plenty of people who have a historical, philosophical, and even theological knowledge of Jesus but they don’t really know him personally. I was more like the Pharisees who knew all about God but had no true sense of living with him daily.
Sometimes, Jesus and I felt like estranged roommates. He’d come in the room but I just kept staring at the television, trying to avoid eye contact as I told him I’d do the dishes in the sink later. He’d remind me that I’d said that last week and I’d storm out of the room wondering why we moved in together in the first place.
Connection requires knowing both who you are as well as who God is.Rich showed me that I had forfeited connection for safety. In this case, safety was about my preoccupation with protecting myself from relational conflict and risk. However, connection requires trust, intimacy and honest exchange. Connection requires knowing both who you are as well as who God is.
This is why:
He didn’t have any close relationships because no one really knew who he was.I read a memoir once where the author said that he had created dozens of versions of himself through the years. He was like a chameleon – becoming different people in different contexts. There was a Dating version of himself, a Church version, a Businessman version, a Husband version, a Secret version. He didn’t mean to. It just kind of happened as an attempt to feel safe and make friends. He said it took him a long time to realize that he didn’t have any close relationships because no one really knew who he was. He also said he never got close to people – not REALLY close – because he was afraid they would figure out he was a phony. So he never really felt like he knew other people very well either. Intimacy felt dangerous.
Jesus always seemed distant because he couldn’t see himself clearly enough to be honest with God about his own heart and life.He did this with God too. He had a lot of Bible knowledge but Jesus always seemed distant because he couldn’t see himself clearly enough to be honest with God about his own heart and life. Before long, he realized that he didn’t know which version was his real self. In the end, he realized not only did he not know Jesus but he didn’t know himself either. He looked around and found himself surrounded by all of his personas. He was lost in the woods he’d created.
We can’t be intimate if we don’t know what we bring to the table.We can’t be intimate if we don’t know what we bring to the table. Think of it this way: If you have a million dollars but live like you only have a hundred dollars, you’re probably missing out on a lot of great experiences. But if you only have ten dollars and you’re living like a millionaire, you’re living in a fantasy world and are probably hurting the people closest to you. As a person, you have gifts and you have weaknesses, and you can’t bring either to Jesus if you don’t know what they are.
As a person, you have gifts and you have weaknesses, and you can’t bring either to Jesus if you don’t know what they are.A pastor friend of mine once pointed out that the Bible says that Adam “knew” Eve. He said when he was younger he was really confused because he always thought of Adam and Eve knowing one another as just being about sex. But then he read that the Bible tells us that God wants us to know him. He was pretty certain that God didn’t mean it in the same way that Adam and Eve did. That’s when he realized that the Bible was talking about more than sex. It was a way of saying Adam and Eve had deep connection and vulnerability. They didn’t hold anything back from each other. They brought all of themselves to the other. They sought to know and be known.
While it’s certainly true we can’t know Jesus without knowing what the Bible tells us about Jesus, it’s also true that we can’t know Jesus without knowing ourselves.I think connection and vulnerability is what Jesus wants between he and us as well. We can’t do that unless we know what we’re bringing to the table, and in order to know, we must ask: What is my story? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What are my desires? How does Jesus relate to these?
While it’s certainly true we can’t know Jesus without knowing what the Bible tells us about Jesus, it’s also true that we can’t know Jesus without knowing ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll keep Jesus at a safe and blurry distance.