Christ is risen!
“All by myself, don’t want to be all by myself anymore…” So sang Eric Carmen in 1975. The song was loosely based on the second movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. It tells the story of a young man all alone as he is stood up at the altar on his wedding day. It grips with telling power the sadness of being alone. I never will forget a friend recently telling me that when she speaks on college campuses the crowd really pays close attention when she says the word “loneliness!”
And this is something humanity regularly fights against. But there is another fear that humanity also fights and that is the fear of being discovered.
So, we’re afraid of being alone and we’re afraid of being known. Sounds like a perpetual prison of competing fears.
In today’s Gospel lesson given to us to prepare us for this Sunday’s Samaritan Woman Sunday, the Lord confronts the religious leaders of His day (seems like He’s always doing that) and He says to them: “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
Look at John 8:12-20:
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees then said to him, “You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
The remedy for both the fear of loneliness and the fear of being discovered is to understand why we fear these two realities. We fear being alone because we were created in the image of Him Who knows Himself as Persons in Communion. We were made to be known and to know others. As Metropolitan Zizioulas says in his wonderful book “Being as Communion” we can only know ourselves in the face of another. This hard work of communion confronts we moderns with our desire for relationships that make us “happy” or “fulfill” us as if those kinds of relationships come naturally! Not so. Good relationships, whether with God or spouse or friends takes work!
And we fear being discovered and known because, like our first parents in the Garden of Eden when they ate and discovered they were naked, we hide our weaknesses in fear of being rejected because of our weaknesses. This fear of being truly known by another sets up all kinds of defense mechanisms in our behaviors, and keeps others away from us. We say within our hearts “If they see me for who I really am, they will not love me.” So, we hide. We hide from our friends and family. We hide from our co-workers. We hide from ourselves. And we try to hide from God, but that is futile. He, alone, knows our true selves, and loves us. So, since hiding is mainly hiding from ourselves, the answer to our fear is to confess our fears and confront them knowing He loves us and will never reject us. Ever!
The religious leaders of the Lord’s day failed to see Christ for Who He is precisely because they were not intimately acquainted with His Father. If they had known the Father, they would have immediately recognized the “family resemblance” in Jesus. But they, like us, spent most of their energy hiding from God and each other.
Today, do you fear being alone? Do you fear being discovered for who you really are? Now do you see both these fears are horrible tricks of the evil one to leave you in a never-ending prison of fear? The wisdom and rhythm of the Orthodox faith is all about overcoming both of these baseless fears and coming into the freedom of relationship with God and one another. Never easy, but always worth it!
P.S. All of us at Faith Encouraged are so grateful for your comments on the devotionals, your emails, and your generous support. Please know your gifts and your words of encouragement lift our spirits and strengthen us to keep at it! God bless you!