Knowing is a very broad term. You can know facts. You can know things. You can know people.
School is primarily based on knowing facts. This is demonstrated through the typical testing system. Tests were created to help you demonstrate your knowledge of a set of facts. We sit through lectures and then study the material in order to do well on the tests. The higher the grade we receive, the more we can say we know about a subject. Unfortunately, much of this knowledge is lost. I took two years of Spanish in High School. I did well enough with B’s. But my grasp of the Spanish language is minimal at best. We lose this knowledge of facts through lack of use. And it can be said that the more you use a piece of knowledge, the greater the ingrained retention of this item. Take for instance learning to tie your shoes. This was something that parents and older siblings spent hours teaching you. After all these years of tying your shoes everyday and sometimes more than once, you are able to complete this task without even thinking about it. You can say that you “know” how to tie your shoes. I cannot say that I “know” how to speak Spanish.
J. I. Packer gives the example of knowing a horse. You can spend a couple of days with a horse and largely say that you know that horse. By this, you mean that you know his likes and dislikes. You know his habits and tendencies. You know how to motivate him to do your bidding. You know if he likes carrots or apples. Animals are transparent. They do not seek to deceive or hide anything regarding their personality from their riders. Their reactions are ingrained in them and they are conditioned both naturally and manually to react in certain situations. Once you begin to experience this animal underneath you for a period of time, you can feel these tendencies and manage him in a way that forces him to serve your needs. Because of this transparency of spirit, you can “know” everything there is to know about this animal in a very short period of time.
Knowing people becomes a bit more complicated. First, there are degrees of knowing someone. People may ask you if you know a popular figure in history or today. They are actually asking if you “know of” this person. There is an assumption that you do not personally know the President of the United States, but certainly you “know of” him. This knowledge is based on awareness. There is no personal contact with this person. Your knowing him is relegated to the knowledge of his existence and any facts about that person that may be freely distributed through outlets by other people.
The second level of knowing someone involves personal contact. A formal or informal introduction. This begins with learning a person’s name. Once you know a person’s name and have experienced some sort of personal interaction with them, you have graduated to the second level of knowing. This personal interaction typically begins with an introduction. This can happen through a handshake, a phone call or an email dialogue. The basic elements of this level of knowledge are knowing the name of the person and, at the least, an exchange of greetings between each other. It is imperative that both parties acknowledge and speak to each other for this level of knowing to be achieved. This relationship can continue for years and years at this level. Interaction is relegated to benign, superficial greetings, inquiries about health, comments on the weather, working toward a common goal in the workplace, club or group.
The third level of knowing is based on commonality. As you engage with another individual, you may begin to find commons sets of interest with them. This commonality may be found in activities, beliefs or experiences. We tend to engage with people with whom we share something in common. We spend time seeking out people who actually do share any of these items. If we enjoy bowling, we join a bowling league. If we love football, we gravitate to other football fans. If we hold to evangelical truths, we attend a church that stands on these truths. If we have lost a spouse or child, we find support groups of people who are in various stages of a similar experience. Commonality is key in this level of knowing. It involves empathy. Empathy is a strong emotion. One that is freely given and voraciously received. No person wants to be alone. So we cling to people with whom we can share what is meaningful to us.
The fourth level of knowing is trust. While in the third level we share common interests with each other, in the fourth level we share intimate parts of our inner lives. We begin testing the waters with the other person. We may share something small to determine what level of trust we can assign to them. We ache to share secrets from our lives. When we were pre-teens, we couldn’t help but share with a friend our moon eyed love for another person. The test of friendship was whether this person would betray our trust by telling another person or worse yet, by telling the object of our affection our personal secret. We can gauge the level of trust that we have for someone by their reaction to our revelation. If they are shocked or taken aback, we tend to draw a line at how much we will tell this person. We begin to understand their level of tolerance for what is inside of me and boundaries are drawn. Interactions between the two are intimate but still have limits. These limits, once discovered, likely will never move.
This is the ultimate state of knowing someone. All limits are removed. Nothing is withheld. Secrets no matter how deep and dark, are shared openly. The reaction is always acceptance. There is an overwhelming desire to unload everything in your heart and there is no reticence to do so. To confess your desires, wants, and needs to someone is freeing. To be able to admit to your dark thoughts and match your abhorrence for these thoughts, while empathizing with your struggle is strengthening to oneself. The other person then becomes a help to you in your time of need. They know the right thing to say. They know when to call. They know when to listen. They strongly desire to see you victorious in your living and will do anything to assist you in that path. And when you fall, they are there to pick you up. They brush you off, give you water and let you lean on them until your strength returns. This is the ultimate knowing. Nothing is secret. Nothing is withheld. All is known. This is a relationship that most never experience. And those of us who are lucky, may have one person in our lives with whom we can experience this level of knowing.
To Know God
When I speak of knowing God, I speak of the Fifth Level of Knowing. God is transparent. He wants to reveal to us everything there is to know of Him. He uses scripture and the Holy Spirit to teach us about Him. It is a revelatory knowledge. It is one of experience. We may read a verse of scripture and it mean nothing to us. Then years later, when the time is right and our lives are in place of particular need, we read or remember the same passage and it speaks volumes to us. Our knowledge of God comes through obedience. We must constantly seek to know what God would have for us each second of the day. We can only do this through obedience. Studying God’s Word and praying without ceasing are two principles that require our obedience. And in these two areas, we begin to know God more and more.
And He knows us. He knows us intimately. He searches are deepest thoughts. He can see into the depths of our souls. He knows our longings. He hears our groanings. And he comes alongside with the Comforter, ready to give us just the right amount of strength and grace to take the next step. He wants us to lean on Him. He wants to be our sole source of support. He desires nothing more than an intimate relationship with His created. This is demonstrated through His great sacrifice to insure that our sin would not block us from this relationship.
Father – Help me to know you. Help me to trust you. Help me to lean on you. Help me to share all that is in my heart. Purify me, Lord. Make me wise in my doings. Remind me to acknowledge you with every breath. Amen.