“The One Who Knows Us Best”
Johnny was a lost child.
He didn't like himself.
In order to find identity and self-worth, he ran with any crowd that would have him.
The crowd that took him under their wing were even more lost than Johnny.
They found promise in him.
They led him further and further astray.
Along the way Johnny learned to hate himself even more and fear and hate others.
He got into a mess of trouble.
Pretty soon it seemed like Johnny was locked up in chains.
He was addicted to alcohol and drugs.
He had practically no self control.
Then he failed out of school; and yes the chains were on.
Johnny could not go where he wanted to go, he was led by the chains of his addiction, the chains of his self-hatred, the chains of his lost friends, the chains of his growing anger, frustration, rage and pain.
Johnny tried to land jobs, but when he got a job he would talk back to his boss's because he had been taught to fight authority.
He had been made to believe that this was a sign of strength.
And it always got him fired.
Soon Johnny found himself on the street with a bottle in his hand.
He planned to kill himself, he just hadn't yet figured out the exact way he would do it yet.
His hope was that he would simply die in his sleep.
Every morning that Johnny awoke, his first emotion was disappointment.
His next emotion was anger.
Then one day Johnny met someone who had lived a similar life as his.
And they got talking.
This new "friend" could relate to Johnny's plight and Johnny could relate to him.
This new friend of Johnny's though was unlike any friend Johnny had ever had.
This friend was happy.
Instead of complaining all the time, this friend had a positive outlook.
Instead of trying to be a "tough guy," this friend wanted to be a good, loving guy.
As time went on, Johnny found himself wanting what his new friend had.
And so Johnny spent more and more time with his new friend.
And Johnny went to church and Bible study with his new friend.
He also volunteered in some of the outreach ministries of the church.
Eventually, Johnny decided he didn't want to have anything more to do with those old chains that had kept him bound.
When Johnny read in the Bible that Jesus had come to "preach good news to the poor..."...and..."proclaim release for the prisoners" he decided to take the Lord up on His promise.
In doing so, Johnny became a new man.
He no longer felt like a "lost child."
His anger melted away.
And although it took some time, his addictions no longer had a hold on him.
He became a follower of Christ, a child of God.
He claimed this as his identity.
And far from wanting to die--Johnny wanted to LIVE!!!
Because Johnny now had so much to live for.
The question of identity…of “Who am I?” is one of the urgent questions of our time.
And it’s not only teenagers who struggle with a sense of identity.
It’s also the parent whose children are all away from the home for the first time.
And it’s the retiree who has nowhere to go in the morning.
It is also the wife or husband whose spouse has died.
One way or another, at one time or another, we all ask: “Who am I? What is the meaning of my life?”
Psalm 139 informs us that even when we don’t know who we are we are nevertheless fully known and eternally loved by the Lord Who has “created [our] innermost parts…"
…knitted us “together while [we were] still in [our] mother’s womb…
…and Whose “eyes saw [our] embryo [s}”!
We belong to God, “body and soul, in life and death.”
Psalm 139 invites us to receive an identity rooted not in the things we might say about ourselves or the labels that others give us, but in the God Who knows us more deeply and more lovingly than we could ever know ourselves!!!
How awesome is that?
The Psalmist insists that whether we are aware of God or not, we are known completely by God, and that before we know or name God, God knows and names us!!!
In Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord proclaims, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”
Our knowledge of God comes from God’s knowledge and self-revelation to us.
And we are invited to trust the God Whose grace encompasses us in ways that are beyond our ability to fully understand.
The Psalmist writes: “Lord, you have examined me.
You know me…
…You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.”
For some, this kind of inside knowledge may be a bit threatening.
After-all, as Americans we revere our privacy, do we not?
If we decide to build a patio in our backyard, we make sure and plant trees that will protect us from the “spying eyes” of our neighbors.
We don’t want others to know what we are up to.
We want our privacy protected at all costs!
And when someone infringes on our privacy, we are enraged!!!
If we fall victim to identity theft, we feel that our privacy has been deeply violated.
We guard the information about ourselves, and share only what we must.
We go to great lengths not to reveal to others who we really are, sometimes even to our closest friends and family members.
And if something that was meant to stay hidden is disclosed, our entire world can come crumbling down!!!
Think of the scrutiny that politicians undergo, and how fast and hard they fall when something “unacceptable” about them is revealed.
One reason people try and hide parts of themselves is because they fear un-grace!!!
They are afraid that persons won’t love and accept them if their innermost thoughts and secrets were to be made known.
We are all there, in one way or another, are we not?
It is a silly life in so many ways.
The writer of Psalm 139 admits to God, “You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.
There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord, that you don’t already know completely.
You surround me—front and back.
You put your hand on me.”
The spirit in which this Psalm is written is not fear but trust, not guilt but praise, not judgment but grace!!!
How can that be?
God knows everything about us, and that is fine…
…no more than fine…
…that is a reason to rejoice!!!
God “knit” and “wove” us together.
God’s intimate loving attention to us; God’s personal care makes even a mother’s loving nurture seem distant in comparison.
In a time when the worth of human life has been vastly cheapened, Psalm 139 affirms God’s supreme valuing of us.
We are an expression of the worth that God gives to the work of God’s own hands!!!
Is that not affirming?
Does that not give us a reason to stand up and cheer?
We are not cheap!
We are not dung!
We are not worthless and weak!
We are created in love by the love of God!!!
And so, with the Psalmist, we can rejoice, “You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in the womb.
I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart.
Your works are wonderful…”
Take that hatred of self and throw it out the window!!!
Take any hatred of others and throw it out the window as well!!!
Brothers and sisters, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what other people have told you—you are of infinite worth—you are great because the One Who created you is Great!!!
You are important because the One Who created You has “incomprehensible” plans for you!!!
You need not be afraid, because the God Who knows you even better than you know yourself loves you with a love that will never fail, never fade away!!!
Yes, we Americans treasure our privacy, but perhaps paradoxically…
…at the same time, we yearn to be understood, accepted, loved and known.
Just think of the theme of so many books and movies that are devoted to people who attempt to trade places or spaces or bodies with another person.
We want to be known and to know others.
Why else would this be a reoccurring theme?
In a recent movie, a wife switches bodies with her husband; she becomes a professional football player, and he becomes a housewife.
In the movie Freaky Friday, a mother and a daughter who simply cannot understand each other switch bodies.
It happens on a Thursday night when they have a big argument in a Chinese restaurant.
Both of them receive a fortune cookie from the restaurant owner’s mother which causes them to switch bodies the next day.
And as they adjust to their new personalities, they begin to understand each other more and more…
…until, eventually, they come to have a great “mutual respect” for one another!
Would that not happen with all relationships if we could only get past the façade, if we could only be understood and experience empathy for and with the other person?
Sadly, because of our limitations, we can’t fully understand another person, nor can they fully understand us.
But this is where we are to derive comfort--Knowing that God knows us better than we know ourselves.
God knows us and God loves us.
And God sent His One and Only Son in order that we might come to know Him!!!
And in coming to know God through the love of Jesus, we come to know ourselves...
...to accept ourselves and in turn to accept and love others.
This is what the Christian journey is about.
It is our strength when facing what could be despair!
It is truth shining in the darkness that threatens to overtake us!!!
God knows us and loves us.
We know God through Jesus Christ.
And although there is much more that we don't know when compared to what we do know, our love and thus our knowledge grows as we put our faith in action serving others in Christ's name.
Johnny was a lost child.
Now Johnny has been found.
He is promise to us all.
The Psalmist writes: "Lord, you have examined me.
You know me...
God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!
Their total number is countless!
If I tried to count them--they would outnumber grains of sand!
If I came to the very end--I'd still be with you."
The Psalmist says that nothing can separate him from the loving presence of God.
Wherever he goes, whatever becomes of him, God is there.
This trust is echoed by the Apostle Paul in the Scripture Reading from Romans that Tandi read earlier: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"...in all things we win a sweeping victory through the one who love[s] us."
Is this your story?
Do you know this reality?
Can you relate?
Have you given your heart, your life, your trust, your chains, your all to the One Who created you, Died for you and knows and loves you more than you know or love yourself?
If not, you can.
You can right now.