I never tire of exploring personal conflict in light of the Exodus. I remember past teachings and hear new messages each time I go back to this part of the Bible because life unfolds, and Scripture is always applicable to helping me understand new experiences. Sometimes, a simple statement carries huge weight such as “He knew.” What does that mean?
To Know and to Know
The word “know” that is used in Exodus 2:25 is derived from the word used for sexual intimacy. Way·yê·ḏa‘ means “took notice of,” “saw,” “beheld.” The Lord is omniscient — he knows everything — and omnipresent. He sees into hearts and sees what we do. He is also personally with us in our struggles; so close, sometimes, that we don’t see him.
This is the picture I get when I recall the hardest times, the darkest darks. God was life support. While I was oblivious, he knew for me when my mind was blank. He was so bright I couldn’t see anything but darkness. He was oxygen and blood, bread and water.
By degrees, I could feel and be aware: slowly, slowly, and where was God then? I think I was standing on his feet like a little girl, looking up at his chin but not seeing his eyes. He would grip me tightly, so I didn’t fall, leaving the marks of pain-filled rescue. At least I was alive. Does one ever forget times like those, even when life is better? I doubt it. Life is relatively peaceful right now, but I remember.
Eventually, warmth and coherency and a splinter of the Lord’s magnificence take hold: would his chin reflect the yellow petals of a buttercup? Does the Lord like butter? Letting him hold my hands and walk me, I learned that I was still moving in his strength.
My Father sometimes twirled me, still atop his toes, and I laughed sometimes, even though I mostly cried during those worst days, which we all experience in one way or another. A childlike picture, so fitting for the way we are meant to view ourselves as children of the Lord. But as I grow in faith and learn more about his character, more details emerge.
When he let me stand on my own, I had to step back and see that my Father is my Sovereign. I heard him say the words he had whispered into the top of my head, where I couldn’t hear him before or maybe wasn’t really listening. When he let me stand-alone, I clung to his voice, heard what he promised, until I could understand them.
Hope and Understanding
“Those words, ‘God knew’ are pregnant with hope.” Jon Bloom explains what they really mean: “God was aware of each person’s suffering. He understood what was happening to them and how it was affecting them.” He graphically describes the horrors that I skim over.
God saw slavery, infanticide, bodies breaking down under shocking pressures, but as Bloom points out, God has always known. The Lord says in Genesis 15:13-14 “I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
There is nothing outside of God’s knowledge, past, present, or future. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like he knows. Intimacy, oneness, is so difficult to grasp or describe. I often find that I don’t recognize feelings or thoughts about oneness at the time; only from a distance, where I regain hope in the light of new evidence, or old evidence about God but relearned against new circumstances; evidence re-known.
The Two Halves of Knowing
This is what we crave, right? Or is that just me? We want to be known. The way to gain knowledge of a person is to spend time with him or her in various settings. Watch, listen, ask questions, challenge. Knowing takes time.
From that knowledge comes a deeper knowing, which is part reason and part mysterious feelings. The words aren’t easy to find. Love is a facile word for that kind of closeness. Marriage is an intimate friendship, but we don’t need to marry in order to enjoy the closeness.
It’s not sexual. We Christians are part of the body of Christ, and as such we are united in a highly intimate way. But the neck is probably closer to the collar bone than to the toes. We aren’t equally close to everyone.
Moreover, I want it but also fear it. What if someone knows me and it’s too much to handle? Too much honesty, just too raw? Examine anybody and there are scars: the body even betrays itself; everything is broken. Relationships will never be perfect on this side of heaven.
Perhaps you wince deeply at the idea that an intimate friend will ask “could you give up drinking? You know it’s not good for you, right? What does your habit say about your relationship with Christ?” (Replace drinking with porn, extreme exercise, working too much, over-eating, etc.).
Man, being known hurts sometimes. Meanwhile, if I choose to know someone else, I adopt a measure of responsibility to respond redemptively to what I see and hear. That’s intimidating.
But not in the right relationship. One of my friends engages in a Bible study with me weekly. We are currently studying Matthew 5 and being really honest about our struggles. We talk about the ugliness of pride, selfishness, and fear of man.
It’s okay, though, because our motive is to uplift each other, encourage one another, and grow together in Christ. We are not abusing each other’s vulnerability. It’s safe to be known by each other.
The Key to Redemptive Knowing
That’s key: why does someone need to know all about me? Why do I need knowledge of someone else? Have you ever been given too much information (TMI)? When the details of a person’s life are just handed out without abandon: that can be cringy, even traumatizing. Several times, when this has happened, I’ve felt totally conflicted:
- You poor woman. I really need to pray for you.
- Why did he tell me so much? I wasn’t asking!
- What am I supposed to do now?
- I can’t sleep: that picture is turning in my head, I wish it would go away.
People will provide intimate knowledge about their lives for multiple reasons, some of which include:
1. A desire to receive help.
2. A desire to help you.
3. As a way to defend themselves.
I can recall times when each of these has been in evidence.
A good friend started to relate so closely to her trauma that she constantly sought more. We couldn’t have a normal conversation: every phone call had to begin with a tragedy in someone’s life. She’d borrow tragedy when there wasn’t any in her life.
She wanted validation as a sufferer, unaware that her identity is beautiful and worthy because she was made in the Image of God. Every statement about a new crisis wasn’t an opening; it was a wall. As a victim of sexual abuse, she was deeply personal with people soon after meeting them. Her understanding of boundaries (for her sake and that of others) was unstable.
But sharing personal information was a smokescreen. You don’t know what real pain feels like. Don’t talk to me about healing, how do you know? Don’t get too close: you might hurt me, or I might infect you with the sin that’s been done to me. I’m dirty and worthless, and I can never let you see that.
Several people have told me details of childhood trauma, marital breakdown, or depression in order to seek perspective. As our pastor says, it even helps just to hear someone say, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” They waited to find a safe person, then shared their concerns in order to grow in Christ. Where is God in this mess? What part of this mess do I take responsibility for, if any?
A good friend shared the memory of a trauma in order to make a point about identity when I was hurting. We have been friends for over a decade, and she hadn’t told me this fact before because she didn’t need to tell it, it doesn’t define her. She gave it to me as a gift, and I took it as such, with gratitude.
The Important Thing to Know
Each of us is a little bit (or a lot) dented. Take it for granted that God is aware of how you got that way, and how you’re handling it for better or worse. He sees you suffering sinfully or well. And either way, he loves the version you are right now. Romans 5:8: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knows you and loves you the way you are right now.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/natasaadzic
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.