How Well Are You Known?

 

Twelve years ago, I moved from New York City to a much smaller city in Florida. More of a small town, actually. I welcomed the fresh air, the slower pace, and the improved quality of life.

 
But I also needed to make some adjustments…

About a week after our move, after a particularly long day unpacking boxes, we tried getting a pizza delivered. Several phone calls later, we discovered that nothing remained open after 10pm.

The satellite post office near our home closed for lunch each day.

I was late for church one morning because a cow stood in the road and a sheriff’s deputy blocked the road with his car while we waited for the cow to move.

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make was in realizing I could not leave the house without running into someone I knew. Someone from church or from our neighborhood. Someone from the interdenominational Bible study I attended or from the non-profit agency where I volunteered. The anonymity of living in a big city disappeared faster than a bag of M&Ms® at a chocoholic’s convention.

But that was nothing compared to what I’ve experienced lately on the Internet. Facebook seems to know exactly what ads fit my interests. One order on the Barnes & Noble website resulted in emails touting products geared to my interests. The website Spokeo.com contained detailed information about me and anyone for whom I might be searching.

Total strangers seem to know me very well.

To know and be known – truly known – is our deepest desire. Even the apostle Paul noted, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

God created us to know and be known. He created us to be intimately related to Him. He revealed Himself in His Word using a variety of names and attributes to help us know who He is and how He works. We learn from His Word that He is perfectly righteous and just, absolutely faithful and merciful, and truly trustworthy and holy. And because He is who He is, we can trust the most intimate details of our life to Him. In fact, nothing surprises Him – He knows the ugliest details and loves us anyway.

When we’re in a right relationship with the Lord, we’ll have the confidence to be vulnerable and transparent in our relationships with others. To know and be known is a gift, not just with God, but with fellow travelers on the road of life.

With whom is your most intimate relationship?
If you’re not as intimate with the Lord as you would like, what will you do about it?


Affirmation…by the Numbers

I was never much of a numbers person. Words are more my thing. Lots and lots of words, if you ask my husband! Numbers…not so much.

It’s one of the reasons I love to write. To be able to communicate using myriad combinations of a mere twenty-six letters is nothing short of amazing. Yet, my writing life is slowly being consumed by numbers.

Sales numbers and sales rankings. Blog readers and blog subscribers. Blog commenters and friends lists. Website views and page views.

Numbers.

I used to think the most difficult part of the publishing process was actually writing the book…until I wrote the book.

Then I thought the most difficult part of the publishing process was convincing a publisher that my book was exactly what they wanted. Not anymore.

I have now joined the assembly of authors who have learned that hard work doesn’t end with a book contract. The question now consuming my thoughts is whether people will purchase my book. Does anyone even know it’s available? So the impulse to follow the numbers trail begins.    

How many page views did my website receive this week? How many Facebook friends “like” my Author Page? Can I fit my next Twitter posting into a 140-character tweet? How many people commented on my most recent blog post? Was it more than the week before? If not, why not?

My latest compulsion is to check the book reviews for One Year Alone with God. As of today, Amazon.com has three reviews – all five-star. Whew! But cbd.com doesn’t have any. Should I be concerned?

Just when I begin to get overwhelmed by the numbers, I’m reminded that God is more concerned with people than with numbers. In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, pastor and author Jim Cymbala notes, “The Bible does not say we should aim at numbers, but rather urges us faithfully to proclaim God’s message in the boldness of the Holy Spirit.”

Rather than fall prey to the lure of numbers, I must remember that God works one person at a time to build His kingdom. If the reason God prompted me to write this book is to benefit only one person, then it is a successful venture in His sight. If I’m doing what He has called me to do, then I must trust Him for the results…and for my affirmation.

Of course, I will do everything I can to market One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God. But ultimately, I must choose: is my focus on finite numbers or my infinite God?

How do you resist the lure of numbers to bring you affirmation?


Nurturing Relationships…or Not

“Let’s get together for lunch soon.” How many times have I said those words in the past few years without actually doing it? Too many to count, I’m afraid.

Oh, I post on Facebook. I tweet on Twitter. And I blog. I’m so busy staying connected that I can easily go weeks without face-to-face social contact with real live individuals. I don’t mean teaching a class, attending a meeting, or running into someone I know at the supermarket. I mean pure social contact, where we intentionally meet just for fun and to enjoy each other’s company. A time to talk about nothing and about everything. It doesn’t help that I’m a writer – I spend more time with my laptop than I do with people!

Some argue that social networking brings the world closer together. Perhaps it does. But if we’re not careful, our array of posts will create a vast network of intimate strangers rather than cherished friendships. When I logged on to my social network this morning, I learned which “friends” were spending the day shopping, at the beach, or reading. I was advised of the weather in three cities, read seven Bible verses, and was motivated by five inspirational quotes. I was even reminded to wish two people a happy birthday, thanks to the handy-dandy reminder in the margin of my profile page.

But do I really know what is happening in their lives? What are they struggling with? What trials are they facing behind the smiley face icons and the countless exclamation points? A tally of my “friend” count yields 400+ names, but how many are acquaintances and how many are friends in the truest sense of the word?

Then, at the beginning of the summer, a friend in another state was diagnosed with cancer. It’s inoperable at the moment, but she’s receiving chemotherapy and hopes to have surgery in the fall. Before her cancer, she had focused on all the things needing to be done – lessons to be prepared, classes to be taught, and the duties that encompassed a wife and mom’s job description. However, during this battle with cancer, something changed.

She wrote, “I have to confess that I have not been out there cultivating new relationships or nurturing the ones that I already have. My priorities have been elsewhere…I have given much thought to the changes that I am going to make (when cancer is a part of my history and not a part of my present) with respect to my friends. I have been loving as the world loves and that is simply not good enough…When it comes to all matters of the person – social, emotional, spiritual AND physical – friends matter!”

After reading her words, I knew it was time for a change. I wasn’t impressing God with my service at the expense of my relationships. And if there was one thing that was a priority for Jesus, it was relationships. For more than three years, He poured Himself into the lives of the twelve disciples. On His last night with them, when He could have spoken about anything He wanted, He affirmed the value of relationships. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

So at the beginning of this summer, I decided to start living differently. I began contacting people with whom I had promised to “do lunch,” and started scheduling a specific time to meet. Breakfast, lunch, coffee – it doesn’t matter. It’s been wonderful to catch up with long-time friends for nothing more than to enjoy their company.

Funny thing is, a few of the people I’ve called or emailed have not called me back. Could be that they’ve been meaning to, but have just been too busy. Could be because they lost the message. I’d hate to think it’s because they’ve given up on the relationship, but that’s possible too.

Whatever happens, I just know I don’t want to settle for relationships with intimate strangers any more. Relationships require the gift of time to flourish into friendships. The alternative is to settle for an army of acquaintances.

So if I haven’t contacted you yet (and you know who you are!), please pick up the phone or drop me an email and let’s set a time to get together…for no reason at all.

What are you doing to cultivate new relationships and nurture existing ones?