If I committed my mind to learn about some great figure or celebrity, I might take up in my hand a book about their life, a biography attesting to who they are. I could search the length and breadth of their social media profiles to have some insight into their personality. With a hundred other tools, I could acquire enough data about said person to call myself an expert, a biographer, a testament to their life. A true fan through-and-through.
Yet to gather that type of detailed intelligence about a person, however well-researched and thorough, still negates the fact that I don’t know said person. One minute of conversation with a man would tell me more about him than a lifetime’s laborious study. To have knowledge of her is not to know her. In every case, the amount I know about someone still consigns them to an “it” in my mind; a mere object of study, a facet of amusement. They would never be a “you,” a friend, an accomplice, a lover – never a real person.
I could even make it seem to my friends, by my intimate knowledge and some magnificent mirage of a relationship, that I indeed did know that person – no-one else would know. But telling everyone I had an imaginary relationship, however real I could affirm it in another’s mind, still doesn’t make it any more than that – an imaginary relationship.
And so it is with God.
And this terrifies me.
For in one moment of encounter, the Maker confronts me with this catechism:
Do you know me?
And I am lost for words. I could tell you a hundred things of what God is like. Years of Bible reading and study has left in my mind detailed answers to a plethora of scholar’s questions. I could point you to books of reference, academic accounts, and the like.
But do you know me?
My mind swirls with that knowledge. If you asked anyone who knew me, “Does he know God?”, they’d probably give you an affirmative “Yes.” Maybe I’m good at being a fake. Maybe I’ve been pulling of a fete of impostery. Maybe I’ve been living on the outside. Maybe the answer my closest observers would give you isn’t the truth of the matter.
A man in an affair never tells his wife where he’s going, what he’s doing. The adulterer’s life is most successfully lived in secrecy. Living the life of the actor, pulling the strings here and there to hide from onlooking eyes the duplicity of his existence. Unfaithfulness masked by the cleverly construed lies of a professional cheater.
What if, I ask, the Michael I show the world is painstakingly construed around that adulterer’s mask? On the outside, looking as if he has it all together, the man that serves, the man that looks like he’s after God’s own heart.
But what if, in this moment, I stood before my Maker? Would he see the same Michael that the world sees, that my friends see? Or would he see the Michael that knows about him from the books he’s read and the study he’s committed to, but not in a true relationship? What if he looked me in the eyes, and saw an adulterer staring back at him?
Would I stand before the God of the Universe, for him to say, “I never knew you?”
And so it was that he confronted me, one simple I need to end the affair. I need to stop cheating on my heart’s Lover by playing this imitation game. The imitation game is played by cheats – men who proclaim to know in their minds, to put on their masks, but have only knowledge. I need to be faithful. Faithfulness comes in that moment where I give up my prideful, arrogant fakery for simple integrity and humility.
So it is I confess this affair – cheating on my Lover, just to look to the world like I had it all together, to look like the good guy, to the people around me, to indulge in the pleasure of approval. When I stand before God, the approval I worked so hard for in this world won’t matter one single, tiny bit. With eternity ahead, and the fleeting moment of my short life behind, what gain will it be to me for living the falsehood of a fake existence?
In ending this affair, I find the one thing that ever mattered and will ever matter when my short stint at existence has played itself out. The collision of my heart with a loving Father as I choose faithfulness to him over my mistress, the world.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot