Andy Griffith had a home in the same neighborhood where my uncle once lived in Manteo. They met several times and had many long conversations. One day, Andy Griffith said something that surprised my uncle. He said: “I am a very private, extremely introverted person. Everyone thinks I enjoy being in the spotlight because of my profession, but I don’t. If they only knew.”
One day, Mr. Griffith visited a produce stand in Currituck where my sister, Jenean, was working. As soon as Jenean saw him, she started running towards him, screaming: “Andy Griffith! Andy Griffith! I just love you!” Jenean said that he acted kind of funny, like he didn’t like the attention. She said, “When he saw me running towards him, he turned around and started heading in the other direction.” If she only knew.
“If they only knew.”
There are people who always appear confident, like they have it all together. Others look at them and wished they could be as confident. However, while they appear poised and in control, on the inside, they are falling apart, constantly tormented by feelings of insecurity, self-loathing. If they only knew.
There are others who always seem to be happy. They always greet you with a smile and always seem to have an encouraging word for you. But on the inside they are crying. For reasons unknown, their hearts are breaking. “If they only knew. If they only knew how depressed I am. If they only knew how much I really hurt. Oh, if they only knew.”
There are some outside of the church who drive past our church building on the way to the grocery on Sunday mornings. They appear not to be bothered by the large number of cars parked around this building during this hour, while they mutter to themselves, “If they only knew how lonely, how left out I feel. If they only knew how much I wanted to be included, loved and accepted.”
If they only knew. Perhaps we have all said it.
If they only knew how much pain I was in.
If my family only knew how unimportant I feel.
If my parents only knew how hard I am working to please them.
If my friends only knew just how fragmented our marriage really is.
If they only knew how much debt we were in.
If people only knew how bad you treat me.
If my children only knew who much it hurts when I don’t hear from them.
If they only knew how lonely I am since losing my husband.
If she only knew how much I missed her.
If they only knew how much I loved them.
The truth is, we humans long to be known. We desperately want someone to know our feelings, our pain and our joy. We seriously want someone to truly understand us. I think that is one of the reasons that facebook has become so popular in this last decade. For it gives people an opportunity to share their feelings with the world.
However, at the same time, ironically, we are also afraid of people truly knowing us. For we all have thoughts, feelings, desires, secrets and motivations that really do not want anyone to know about. We all have secrets that we want to keep secret. “If they only knew. And I am so glad they don’t!”
However, I believe the only fear that is greater than being fully known, is the fear of someone never really knowing who we are or ever truly understanding us. In spite of all of our mistakes and flaws, I believe most of us want to be known. We want to be understood. If they only knew.
But the sad reality is that they do not know. And what is more sad, they will probably never really know. Yes, people may say it. And they tend to say it all the time: “Oh, I know exactly what you are going through.” “Yes, believe, me I understand.” “Hey, I get it.” “Been there, done that.” But the truth is that they do not have a clue.
When someone gives me a compliment, I usually say something like, “Well, you don’t know me very well.” Or “Well, there’s a lot of things about me that you don’t know!” And it’s true.
There’s a lot of truth in that old spiritual: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”
If they only knew, but nobody does, and nobody probably ever will. Nobody truly knows all that there is to know about you.
They may know your name, where you live, where you work, something about your family, but nobody knows your greatest disappointment. Nobody knows your deepest hurt. Nobody knows your greatest joy. Nobody knows your deepest fears. Nobody knows the very best thing about you that lifts you up, and nobody knows the very worst thing about you that brings you down. If they only, knew, but, sadly, they don’t.
“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” What’s the rest of that song? Nobody knows, but Jesus.
The good news of our faith is that somebody does know. Somebody does know your greatest hurt, your greatest disappointment, your greatest fear, your greatest joy, and the greatest thing about you. The good news is that God knows everything about us.
Wait a minute!
If God knows the best thing about us, God also knows the worst that is within us. If God knows all of our feelings, God knows some of our feelings of unresolved anger and hate. God knows of the intense bitterness which often wells up within us. God knows how selfish we can be.
When someone comes up to the person who knows me better than anyone and says, “Lori, your husband is so wonderful,” guess how she usually responds?
“If you only knew.”
Maybe God knowing it all isn’t such good news after all. But that all depends on your view of God doesn’t it?
If your God is a God of wrath, a power for whom you must work hard to earn it’s favor, then the idea of a God knowing you is very bad news. However, if your God is a friend who loves you, one whose grace abounds and whose mercy has no limits, then you can rest assured that the God who knows your very worst and most scarlet sin is the one who will always love you and forever forgive you. This week, one of our church members said it best when she wrote this on facebook: “So much judgement being tossed around every day. So thankful I serve a merciful, forgiving and AWESOME God. We all would be in trouble without His mercy and grace.”
Our faith is that God loves us so much that God became one of us and died for us. And it was on the cross that God identified God’s self with every human being. The cross is the symbol that our God understands like none other. Our God truly knows us. Through Jesus, God even knows how it feels to be understood by no one, as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” God knows the desire that is in every human heart to be known and to be loved.
The good news is that God knows our very worst, and God continues to love us. And the really good news is that God also knows our very best, the best that is within each of us, that no one else knows. Yes, we all have secrets, but not all of our secrets are bad. Some of our secrets are very good. God knows the best, the secret best that is within us all.
Many of you have deep love and affection for others that you just have not been able to communicate because of fear or embarrassment. Many of you have very generous hearts. You would give so generously to others if you were not limited financially. Many of you would participate in countless mission projects if you were not limited by health or age. There is, in each of us, some secret, some hidden secret, some wonderful secret that has perhaps only partially been exposed to others. If they only knew.
When Robert Lois Stevenson died, one of his friends made the statement: “Robert died with a thousand stories still inside.” We are all a lot like Robert. We will die with a thousand stories still inside of us. We will die with a thousand kind words unspoken, a thousand good deeds undone, a thousand encouraging notes unwritten, a thousand feelings of compassion unacted upon, a thousand good secrets untold. If they only knew.
We will all die with a thousand good stories inside. The good news is that God knows those stories. God knows the very best inside of us that no one else knows, all of the beautiful potential, all of the wonderful promise that is inside of us.
And, more than anything, God wants to work with us to bring some of that potential and promise to life. And I believe that is one of the great purposes of the church: to help bring out the best that is in all of us; to help us build a handicap ramp for the disabled, purchase clothing for a child whose house burned, deliver meals to the elderly, raise money to provide food and shelter for the poor, plant and tend garden for the hungry, make quilts for the sick and grieving, pray for the hurting, welcome and embrace those who have been marginalized, give a voice to the voiceless, fight for justice on the behalf of minorities, plan a Vacation Bible School for children…and who knows what else we and can do? Who knows? God knows. Thanks be to God.[i]
[i] Words inspired and adapted from a sermon written by Charles Poole with the same title while he was a pastor of First Baptist Church, Macon Ga.