by Sarah Van Diest @SarahVanDiest
“Pardon me, but do I know you from somewhere?”
Recently I watched the movie Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day in which being seen, recognized and known for who you really are is a theme.
Almost every character undergoes some sort of tension as they work to either hide who they are, or struggle to uncover who they are.
Though the movie is relatively light-hearted, it is a sad commentary on the prevalence of our desire to find our particular brand of fig leaf to hide behind.
This world can be a scary place. Many of us have moved way past fig leaves and erected well-built walls to protect our most tender spots. Some of us are certain we still have arrows lodged in those tender spots from years ago, while some of us don’t understand we’ve built a wall at all. We think we are fully open, honest and transparent, that we hide nothing and expose all that we are to the world at large, fully vulnerable. I doubt any of us are like that, though. And I’m not sure I would recommend it either. Like I said, this world can be a scary place.
For some of us, the world has been profoundly scary. We’ve faced immensely traumatizing experiences and at times have felt defined by them and what they took from us. The idea of coming out from behind our protective walls is almost as terrifying as the events which led us to erect them. Letting someone come close can be intensely frightening. “Do I know you?” is a question we can quickly answer: “No.”
But it doesn’t have to stay this way.
Peter knew what it was to hide. He is remembered for denying Christ three times before the cock crowed. We know his story and hope we would be more bold and brave than he was, but who can say? After all, he was afraid he would be killed. Remember, the world can be a scary place.
Peter denied he knew Jesus, but he also denied who he himself was. He was a Jesus-follower. He was a disciple of the Lord. He was a believer, a Christian. But he pretended to be something different. He lied and he hid.
Later in his life he warned those who would listen, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8. This is a strong warning from someone who had felt the lion’s breath on his neck. This is a voice worth listening to.
Peter had come to understand the dangers of hiding and not being known for who he was. These dangers are the insidious kind that catch us unaware. Unlike the physical, real-time danger Peter was hiding from, and from which his lies likely saved him from experiencing, these insidious dangers lie in wait. These are the kind that torment us at night when sleep evades; these are the kind that weigh us down with yokes of depression and shame; these are the kind that divide us from those we love the most. These are the kind that isolate us and make us easy prey for that prowling lion.
To hide is not the answer, instead Peter tells us to humble ourselves, to resist the devil and stand firm in our faith, and to be who we are: “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed” 1 Peter 4:16. He tells us that, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” 1 Peter 5:10. Our feeble façades are no comparison to the promise we have that God Himself will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish” us. That is good news.
When we hide who we are and from those who care for us, we isolate and expose ourselves. The very opposite of what we hope is what we wind up accomplishing. We want to protect ourselves, but by hiding we make ourselves vulnerable. This is one area where our instinctual responses are good for the moment perhaps, as in they may save us from immediate harm, but not good for the long haul. Peter likely saved his life that night by denying Jesus and hiding who he was, but it made him easy prey for those insidious dangers to find him later.
It is not easy to let someone know us, especially if we’ve been hurt. Our sense of safety and security needs to be established. And that takes time. But the goal is to be known. Yes. The goal is for others to know who we are, who we really are. Because that’s how we are loved.
In my life, as I walk through the healing process from life’s blows, I’ve adopted a mantra of sorts. It’s something I crafted as goals and try to abide by them most days. I share them with you today:
To know and be known
To hold nothing back that is good and noble
To endeavor daily to find a way to step closer
To walk nearer
To understand better
To love more fully
To live in joy and die in peace
To live life well
Whatever your goals for life are, I hope one of them is to be known. It won’t happen all at once, so be patient with yourself, but perhaps take a step today to walk closer to someone you trust. If that is too difficult, remember this: There is one, dear reader, who has always known you. He knows you more fully and intimately than anyone else ever could. The most wonderful part about this is that He loves who you are, today, right now.
Step closer and be known!
Educated as a teacher, Sarah taught school for nearly 20 years. As a young woman, she lived in China amid the rice paddies and water buffalo near Changsha, and then later taught English in Costa Rica for four years and raised her two sons.
Sarah is married for the second time, the mother of 2 boys and the step-mother to 3 more. She and her husband, David, work together in their agency The Van Diest Literary Agency. Her full name is Sarah Ruth Gerke Van Diest. She’s 5’5” and cuts her hair when stress overtakes her.
She is a freelance editor (including a New York Times and USA Today bestseller), blogger (The Write Conversation) and writer for hire. Her first book releases with NavPress in 2018.