Barrie Kirby: Fully known, fully loved
Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 14, 2015
O LORD, you have searched me and known me,
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely. — Psalm 139:1-4
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day we celebrate love in general and romantic love in particular. It seems that love is something everyone has an opinion about. People talk about it, write about it and sing about it; and some of what people sing, say and write about love gets printed on mugs and decorative plaques that you can purchase for your Valentine.
Do you know who made these statements about love?
- ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
- We loved with a love that was more than love.
- Love is a game that two can play and both win.
- I don’t care too much for money. Money can’t buy me love.
- How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
- You can’t hurry love; no, you just have to wait.
- Love is blind, and lovers cannot see, The pretty follies that themselves commit.
- Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
- I think the perfection of love is that it’s not perfect.
- To know me is to love me.
I haven’t been able to find out who first said that last statement, but it’s often quoted by the characters in the Peanuts comic strip and by Garfield the cat. To know me is to love me. We certainly hope that is the case. Humans have a basic need to be loved. We long for intimacy, but at the same time we fear vulnerability. We hope that if someone really knows us — not only our personal histories but our values and opinions, our hopes and dreams, what we fear and what we dread — that the person will also understand us and accept us. We want to be known because we want to be loved for who we are and not as someone we pretend to be. At the same time, we also fear being known because being known means being exposed to those who may reject us rather than accept us, who may belittle our values and opinions, or crush our hopes and dreams. To know me is to have power over me, and deep inside us all is the fear that if certain persons knew what we really thought, or what we once said, or what we once did or continue to do, they would not understand us at all. And rather than love us, they would hold us in contempt. We want to be loved, but we are ambivalent about being known.
Psalm 139 is about being known. In fact, various forms of the Hebrew word for “know” appear in this Psalm seven times. In the Bible, the number seven is symbolic. It represents fullness and completeness. In this psalm, the seven uses of the word “know” underline the point the psalm makes — that the Lord God’s knowledge of us is comprehensive. It is total, full and complete. There are things we have thought, and done, and said that we don’t want everyone to know. There are even some things we don’t want anyone to know. But the Lord God knows every action, every thought, and every word. Nothing is secret. Nothing is protected. No information is classified.
If there is truth to the saying “to know me is to love me,” then the reverse it also true. To love someone — really love them — we also must know them. And knowing someone takes effort. Paul Tillich, a Lutheran pastor and theologian, said “The first duty of love is to listen.” I haven’t seen that statement on a coffee mug or decorative plaque, but if I do I’ll buy it. It would make a nice gift for my Valentine. The Lord God knows our thoughts before we speak, but we know each other only by telling and hearing each other’s stories, sharing our opinions, and disclosing our hopes and dreams and fears, all without fear of judgment or rejection or ridicule.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. We trust that the God who knows us fully also loves us completely. Let us also strive to know and love each other.
The love sayings were made by:
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, poet laureate of Britain and Ireland
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Eva Gabor
- the Beatles
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- the Supremes
- William Shakespeare
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Taylor Swift
Barrie Miller Kirby is pastor of Spencer Presbyterian Church. Her novel No Such Thing as a Cherokee Princess is available at createspace.com, amazon.com, and at the Literary Bookpost.