From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Loved and Known

Last Sunday was my birthday (62 thank you very much!) and the greetings were a little different this year. To be honest, I was thinking – “gee only 3 happy birthday cards…and one was from Aunt Sally!”. Then while I was checking Facebook I realized I had a big pile of birthday wishes there. So, lots of folks wished me happy birthday, it was just that the expression of their thoughts came to me in a different way than I was used to.

I was really struck, however, by one card that I received via snail mail. It was from Southwest Airlines. I was impressed: here was a big successful company making millions of dollars and completing hundreds of flights every day, with who knows how many employees – taking the time to wish ME, happy birthday! Of course, none of us actually believes this. SWA has no idea who I am, nor will their day be diminished one bit if I were to die this afternoon. They (whoever “they” are) were not wishing me anything except that I’d feel good about them, so I’d buy another flight from them some time in the future. (I’d be more impressed if they sent a birthday present along with the card – a free soda, something!).

It makes me wonder how much we’ve bought into fake wishes, fake relationships. I do wonder about Facebook that way. If I don’t know what breaks your heart, or makes you pump your fist – am I your friend, really? Are we willing to be unknown, in order to feel loved?

I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s book The Meaning Of Marriage along with our Thursday night study group. And he said something here that really struck me. It has to do with marriage specifically, but I think it applies to all our relationships:

When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial {like a SWA birthday card?}. 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 our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. (p.95)

Fully known and truly loved. I can’t expect that from Southwest Airlines. Or even from my wife – because it’s a gift. From God. It’s the gospel.


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