Who Are You? The Internal Longing to be Known

By Kathleen Krueger

It was the summer of 1981. I had just started attending a church where I had enrolled my daughter in the Christian school housed there. I didn’t know anyone in the congregation and felt the need to learn more about the church before my daughter started attending the school in the fall.

The church was having a picnic lunch this Sunday in the park across the street. I stayed for the meal and sat at an empty picnic table with a glass of lemonade.

As I was sitting there, one of the church elders approached and asked if he could join me. Once he was seated, he asked this question, “So, who is Kathy Krueger?”

The question and my internal response to it took me by surprise.

It seemed like I had been waiting my entire life for someone to ask that question. At the same time, I wasn’t sure if the person was seeking a sincere answer or was just looking for the typical surface information like where you work, marital status, how long in the area, etc. So, I put him off with a quip about it being a long story and left to refill my lemonade.

When I returned, he was still sitting at the table, patiently awaiting my response. He sincerely wanted to know more about who I was and why I was attending their church services.

The Desire to Be Seen and Known

I didn’t have words for it then, but that simple question awakened in me a deep desire to be truly seen and known – known for the me inside, not just the facts of my existence.

In his book “The Soul of Desire,” Psychiatrist Curt Thompson explains the desire to be known in this way: “We long to be seen, heard, and felt by one whom we sense desires to see us, hear us, and feel what we feel.”

In Genesis 16:13, Hagar tells the Lord, “You are the God who sees me.” God is the one who places this deep longing to be seen and known within us. He is also the only one who can fully satisfy this desire. But all that God wants in our relationship with him, he also desires for us to experience in our relationships with other people.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” God says in Jeremiah 1:5. We were born with a sense of being known, which fuels the eternal desire for intimate connection with God and man.

See Me, Hear Me, Know Me

Have you ever felt invisible? I have felt that way most of my life. Sometimes that was a good thing; I wanted to be invisible. I’m an introvert; I’m not very good at chit-chat. Sitting in a corner by myself can be preferable to pasting on a fake smile and trying to “mingle.” But no one wants to be invisible to everyone, all the time. We want to know that our presence in the world has some meaning; that we have value to contribute. In that sense, we all want to be “seen.”

We also want to be heard. I’m not talking about someone just hearing our words with their ears. To truly be heard, means to be understood. It means hearing the intensity behind our words.

I recently heard a teenager telling their parent that they didn’t want to participate in the family’s planned night out. Although, the parent listened and acknowledged what was said, they missed the intensity behind the words and encouraged the teen to join the family anyway. It seemed that the parent heard, “I’m stressed.” What I heard was, “I’m about to break.” It wasn’t until the teen was in tears that the parents recognized the desperation behind the request.

I can’t fault the parent in this instance. There is no formula for hearing the deeper truth that underlies someone’s statement. Even trained counselors can miss the subtle cues that indicate there is something more beneath the surface. Many times, the speaker doesn’t fully understand what they are feeling inside, much less how to express it.

The Journey to Being Known

Socrates is quoted as saying, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”

That’s the thing, isn’t it? How can we expect someone else to know who we truly are when we don’t know ourselves? Am I the person my parents think I am? Am I the person my friends think I am? Am I the person I want to be? Who am I at the core?

I don’t know about you, but who I am today is a very different person than I was 10 years ago. I’ve been married to my husband for over 40 years. Neither of us are who we were when we got married and glad of it. The entirety of life is a process of discovering who you are at the core. I feel like I am just now, in my sixties, beginning to see myself truthfully.

Our true self has been clothed in a variety of garments over the years. Sometimes we shed the old garments and put on new ones. Other times, we just put the new garments on over the old, increasing the layers that hide our identity underneath. Those garments are created by our life experiences. We need to examine the layers and dig through the pockets to decide what to keep as a necessary part of our being and what to discard as just added weight.

You may do some of this work with the guidance of a professional, some may be your own interpersonal dialogue or spiritual exchange with the Creator, and some done within safe communities of fellow sojourners.

My Safe Space

I have learned much about myself in the presence of fellow sojourners and guides in safe spaces. My School of the Heart group is one of those spaces. We have met weekly over the last three years, from September through May.Truth-seeking requires vulnerability. Vulnerability requires a space safe from judgment and open to questions that don’t always have answers. School of the Heart has been that for me and others. It is a sisterhood where sometimes we are mirrors for one another, and other times we are a receptacle for sharing life’s frustrations or celebrations. We are always committed to showing and experiencing God’s abundant grace amid a sisterhood of Jesus followers.

In the presence of my sisterhood, I have emptied my pockets of shame, removed the hood that hid my face and exchanged drab robes for a painter’s smock. I have been seen and soothed in a safe, secure space. I have experienced what the Body of Christ is meant to be.

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you would understand that you are already “fully known” as I Corinthians 13 tells us, and fully loved. May you find safe spaces and safe people for your journey in discovering who God created you to be.