Monday, November 07, 2011

Who Are You?

Sometimes, when I meet with a person for the first time, I ask them the question, "Who are you?" This questions is not, "What do you do?" in the sense of "Where do you work?" or "What are you studying in school?" The question "Who are you?" is not the question of a person's doing, but is the matter of a person's being. It is a question of the heart.

Who are you..., really? Upon hearing this question most people pause. Many do not know what to say. For a variety of reasons.

First, no one asks them a question like that. Only lovers want to know the heart of the other, and only a few lovers at that. Most "love" is externally focused on things like material possessions, wealth, and physical beauty. Most lovers don't go deeper than this. Shallow "love" asks, "What can your doing do for me?" "What benefit will I gain from loving you?" Most "love" is not other-centered. Here in America real loving is a lost art, the lostness being driven by our media. With few exceptions.

I remember feeling awkward when Mr. Rogers looked into the camera at me and spoke to me about me. Psychologist Carl Rogers called this "unconditional positive regard." "This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our ailings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others' esteem."

When asked "Who are you?" the questionee [sic.] wonders, rightfully, "Do they really want to know?" "Do they really have time to understand me?" "Do they find me interesting?" Most people do not care. Not really. Because caring takes time, and most don't have it. When the solicitor calls on the phone and asks "How are you today?" they are not expecting us to begin to tell them about our current heart-condition.

Secondly, most people are out of touch with their inner self, their heart. So they cannot answer the question. They view their own lives as essentially conjugated by the verbs to have and to accomplish rather than to be. So they respond to the question of their being with words like "I have ______," I do ________ for a living," "I live here _______," and so on.

At this point I assist them by asking, "What do you like to do?" Now I am going after their heart, because what a person truly likes and values reveals their heart. Proverbs 20:5 says, "The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out." To draw out of the deep waters of the heart a person's purposes, a person's telos. Not as a way of psychoanalyzing them, which treats the other as an object or an "it," but to understand them, to know them.

I have had some people in my life who were interested in me. They drew "me" out of my heart's deep waters. I don't expect everyone to have this interest, or to be able to do it. Yet I feel certain that we all need someone, some person or persons, in our life to show a deeper care for us. In short, we all need to be loved, really loved. Love understands, and we all need to be truly understoood by someone.

God knows who you really are. Jesus was a man of understanding. In a way, this was what Jesus was all about. Jesus understood, and still understands. "Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit... what they were thinking in their hearts..." (Mark 2:8) The love of Jesus is compassionate, meaning he "feels with" us.  God knows you. God searches out the human heart, your heart, my heart. To know you is, in this sense, to love you. Jesus loves you, and has the time to do it.

All who desire to love like Jesus must themselves respond to the question, "Who are you?" Really? Deep in your heart. To know, first be known.

We who long for this can sing, right now, the heart-longing words of Psalm 139:

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you...

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.