“I sense the Lord is leading me to step down from my role as director,” I shared over a Zoom call with my longtime, trusted friends, both teachers in our Sunday connection group. “Honestly, I am wrestling with letting go. I like being part of church leadership and interacting with the staff. I love serving and using my gift of administration. But I confess, I am afraid if I resign, I will no longer be significant. That I will no longer be known.”
After our call ended, the word ‘known’ echoed in my mind. Since childhood, I had longed to know and be known. I wanted to be visible in the crowd. I wanted to be considered worthy and accepted, and sought out by those who were popular, significant and important. I wanted them to not only know my name, but to really know me.
I felt prompted to pull out my memory box of treasured keepsakes. As I took the box off the shelf, I sensed I was looking for something. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but was confident I would know it when I found it.
Memories stirred as I came across ribbons from high school football games, a dried rosebud lei from my senior prom, a boy’s ID bracelet, a charm bracelet, pages of handwritten poems and stories, my graduation cap and tassel, and several autograph books.
I opened one of the autograph books and turned the pastel-colored pages. Instantly transported back in time, I was 13 and begging my junior high school classmates to sign my book; it was imperative every page be filled! I vividly remember reading what they wrote, clinging to any word of validation.
I rummaged beneath the old issues of Tiger Beat magazine and pulled out a folder from my sophomore Identity class. Perhaps this held what I was looking for? I remembered how excited I was to enroll in the course; I had looked forward to discovering who I was, exploring my deepest thoughts, interests and feelings, and creatively expressing myself. However, I didn’t find any profound revelation within the saved pages. Disappointed, I opened a folder from my junior year sociology class.
I half-heartedly flipped through the inked pages. Evidently, the assignment had been to write about my different personas: my ideal, public, and real selves. Tears pooled as I read the words I had transparently penned. I felt invisible. I longed to be someone worth knowing. And, if only for one night, I wanted to be in the spotlight, loved and adored, the one that everyone had chosen as special. On the last page, beneath my grade, my perceptive and wise teacher had honed in on one short sentence. In the midst of a page of rambling lament, I had written, “I think I do have some worthwhile qualities.” She commented on my positive inner-qualities, qualities deemed virtuous and important. I am sure I briefly appreciated her comments, but at some point I disregarded them.
I moved aside several elastic-banded file folders filled with cards and letters. I opened a book on friendship, given to me by my commanding officer when I was her executive assistant. Page after page, she had added to the author’s sentiment. She expressed her gratefulness for the years we worked together and for our friendship. Those years were the best years of my career. Administration is one of my gifts and I thrived in the fast-paced, front-office. I loved everything about the good order and disciple environment. In that role, I was significant. I was continually in the company of successful and important professionals. And I was known.
My thoughts circled back to my long-time role in church leadership. While my heart has always been to genuinely and humbly serve, I was delighted to interact — and become known — by the church staff. I thought about how grateful I am to be a part of a Bible-teaching, gospel-preaching church. I thought about how much I have learned over the past three decades.
I realized my journey through my keepsakes was God showing me how, over the years, I had known — and been known by — countless friends. As I put things back in the box, I thought about the how far the Lord has brought me. He has broken strongholds, revealed truth and radically changed me.
This past Sunday morning, I stood before my connection group and announced I was resigning as director. I shared how I struggled with the decision to step down, about my fear of losing my identity and significance — and that I would no longer be known.
“But I know that is not true. My identity is in Christ. I am chosen and significant. The Holy Bible tells me I am loved and fully known by God!”
As I talked, I made eye contact with my friend who was teaching that day. Her eyes were bright and she smiled big.
After I sat down, she began to teach the lesson from John 10:14. She glanced at me as she read the words of Jesus. “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me.“
I smiled. Indeed, a life-long longing has been satisfied.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. ~ 1 Corinthians 8:3