To Know and To Be Known
I pay little attention to the statistics software that runs in the background on this site. Every time someone visits, every time someone looks at a page, that software makes a little notation and at the end of the day I can look and see how many people browsed the blog. I don’t look all that often because, frankly, I’m just not all that interested. I guess if I was a better blogger I’d be monitoring it closely, looking for patterns, looking for the kinds of articles that draw in the readers.
But the other day I took a look and saw that in the course of the day somewhere around 70,000 people had visited the site and read one of my articles. That’s a lot of people. It’s an atypical number of people, but at least for that day it was true. I found myself in a small moment of pride, remembering the days when 7 people visited the site (at least 6 of whom were relatives). But quickly I caught myself and began to ponder the implications of that pride. I began to ponder the implications of the number 70,000.
Let me give you just a little glimpse into my life. I feel strange even writing about this—prideful even. But I suppose that’s what this blog is, at least in part—me wrestling through the implications of living this life. Here are questions I have been thinking about lately. Who am I? Who tells me who I am? Who tells me what I do well, what I’m succeeding at, what I’m failing at? Who tells me my strengths and weaknesses? What is the relationship between me at home, me in my church, me on my blog, me before an audience at a conference? How do I weigh and measure all of these things? How do I evaluate them?
I love the readers of this site. I know that a lot of you have enjoyed its articles over the long haul. Many of you have sent along words of encouragement over the years. You’ve bought my books and become Friends of the Blog and otherwise been good friends. But when I stop to think about it I realize that I do not give up a lot of information about myself here. I can easily reveal my best while hiding my worst. You see only as much of me as I’m willing to reveal and I see only as much of you as you are willing to reveal. This means that I am relatively easy to love. This does not make our relationship meaningless; not at all. But it does mean that our relationship must be simple. It cannot go very deep.
The people of my church see a lot more of me. They see me in the pulpit, trying to teach them God’s Word. They see me trying to lead them, to shepherd them. They see me in small group contexts, hearing details of my life. They see far more of me than the readers of this site ever will. And they love me. They love me, but they’re not impressed by me. That’s a good thing, I’m sure.
The question is, what if I care more about what the 70,000 think than the 200 or so who attend Grace Fellowship Church? It is relatively easy to be impressive from afar. But wouldn’t it be sad if the 70,000 thought more of me than the 200 who know me better? Wouldn’t it be sad if I cared more for the many than the few?
I sometimes joke that the greatest proof of my wife’s love for me is that she has seen me naked and continues to love me. It’s a marriage joke and one I think a lot of men can identify with. It’s true on a physical level, but it’s even more true on just about every other level. My wife is the one I love most in all the world; my wife is the one I’ve hurt most in all the world. She has seen me at my best and she has seen me at my worst. She’s seen who I am in crisis, in pain, in sorrow, in anger, in sin. She has heard me speak words of love even while acting hateful. She has seen me love my children as a father should and exasperate my children as no father should. And she loves me. It’s remarkable. Her love means so much because she knows so much. There are so few secrets between us, so little about me that is hidden to her.
What if all the blog readers are impressed but my wife is entirely unimpressed? There are many pastors who are loved all around the world but who have earned very little respect in their own church. There are many men who are admired far and wide but whose wife and children struggle to find any reason to respect them.
And here is what I have been grappling with over the past couple of weeks: What a tragedy it would be if at the end of my life there were 70,000 people who thought I was one thing and one person, my wife, who knew I was something or someone very different. This is a surprising relevation from the life of A.W. Tozer. Other examples abound. The history of the church is full of them. His church loved him, his wife did not. The multitudes thought he was godly, his family knew better.
My heart is sinful. My strength is weak. And already I feel the pull to care more for the many than for the few, to seek to be impressive to the many while being indifferent to the few. That pull must grow exponentially as the many becomes the very many. I feel for the men who are given a great platform and great popularity. The greater the crowds, the more difficult it must be to remain faithful to the few—the few who matter most.
I’m grateful to know God and to be known by God. God knows me better than I know myself. He knows not just what I do, but what I think, not just my actions but even the hidden motives behind them. He knows things about me that I can only guess at. And through his Word he wants to speak to me, he wants to lay my heart bare, he wants to tell me who I am and who I must serve. He is trustworthy, he is kind, he is loving, he is unimpressed. He seeks his own glory through me. I can see that he is my only hope.