To Know and be Known
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” - Timothy Keller I’ve spent a lot of time processing this ‘being known’ business. I want to come to the conclusion that it’s not for me, that I will be just fine if I hide from connection forever. I keep running into a resounding ‘no.’ The truth is, I deeply want connection and deeply fear it all at the same time. Being known requires a raw, tender exposure of myself. All of me. My strengths, weaknesses, shame, brokenness, joys. It’s risky – it doesn’t promise easy.
But I think this is where I start to uncover God’s purposes for sexuality in a more tangible way. Sex offers one way to experience raw, nowhere-to-hide connection. I want to continually highlight that it is one way - because God meets our longing for intimacy within himself and within the local church and within community and within marriage - the list goes on.
But sex is a place where this fully knowing and fully loving is intertwined - and it happens most securely in the context of commitment. Commitment, the covenantal kind, is modeled after the only true binding commitment - God to us. The Lord promises that he will never leave us or forsake us, and he gives us a glimpse of that promise in the covenant of marriage.
When we enter into this covenant, we enter into a space meant for safety and freedom. In this safety and freedom comes the knowing. Genesis 4:1 says: “Now Adam knew Eve, and she conceived and bore a son.” The Hebrew word used here for ‘knew’ is yada, which means:
To know To learn to know To know by experience To perceive To consider To know a person To be made known To make oneself known To be known
This word, yada, is used in great variety in Scripture - figuratively, literally, inferentially - and my hope is not to reduce its vastness. I do want to highlight, though, this overarching theme of God knowing us and us knowing God. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” His knowledge of us transcends our existence, and he continues to search and know us all of our days (Psalm 139). Likewise, he gives us access to knowledge of him – as Romans 1:19 reminds us, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” This being fully known and knowing is central to our relationship with God – for it is in him that our utmost needs for intimacy are fulfilled.
However, he graciously gives us a taste of being known and knowing through the act of sex. He gives us a safe space for full exposure. He gives us the ability to know our spouse by enjoying his body, by learning how he receives enjoyment, by expressing enjoyment ourselves, by protecting him, by trusting him with our body, and by choosing him time and time again. These are all vulnerable places. And its in that vulnerable, honest state of unparalleled intimacy where we get a fuller understanding of God’s "yada" of us. There is no hiding.
I think this is one reason casual sex and pornography are appealing. They offer the comforting, superficial kind of love that says, "I enjoy you as long as I don't know you." This is one reason why abuse and infidelity and neglect continue to appear - "I know you and I don't want anything to do with you."
But the fully knowing and the fully loving through sex, and ultimately marriage is, well, "a lot like being loved by God."
What does this mean for you? What does it mean to you that God knows you fully and gives you access to more fully knowing him? How can we begin to see marriage and sex as a glimpse of that knowledge?