Updated: Apr 28, 2021
To be known is a bit like coming home. To feel that someone else knows all your inconsistencies, your quirks, your foibles, your flashes of irritation, your penchant for EastEnders, and your need for copious cups of tea in bed before the day starts, is a gift. And not everybody has it. I didn’t have it as a single parent for sixteen years, so I am doubly, triply grateful now for the presence in my life of someone who tells me who the murderer is in 'Poirot' as I’ve fallen asleep on the sofa.
Being known. This principle asks that as a member of the Third Order, I make Christ known to others. I think that’s entirely admirable. I wouldn’t want to argue with that. But, to make Christ known, surely, I first have to know myself in relation to him? You can’t introduce someone to someone else without knowing something about them. You can’t say – 'This is Jack. I don’t know anything about him, or he me but I think he’s a good person to get to know'.
The other person would think you were a bit barking. Or just a fraud. Either way, it’s not good.
No, the reflection on this Principle tells me that we can’t make Christ known until we first know ourselves. Until we have first opened ourselves up to being known by Christ and allowed him into every corner of our being. This sounds a bit scary to be honest, but as with everything about my Franciscan journey, it doesn’t have to be. I don’t think the Christ they are talking about has me on an operating table and is about to wield a scalpel over my tender innards and exorcise anything he doesn’t like. I think his approach is much gentler. He invites me in. And I respond.
It’s about relationship. It’s about connection.
And no true relationship can be built on extortion, or bullying or terror. It can only be built on truth.
‘The soul seeks truth’ so the reflection on this Principle tells me.
I can honestly say that I have never given up my search for truth. I have never given up believing that somewhere out there in the great cosmos or as close as around the corner, there was an elusive little nugget of pure diamond truth. And if discovered, it would radiate pure light back to me and I would know that I had found real treasure.
I have mined all my life for this jewel.
What is truth?
Now when I was growing up, truth was easy. The Bible was the truth. If you had a problem, you only had to pick up your Bible and let it fall open at a verse to find your answer. Boom! Job done. You may have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle, but that was your fault for not doing it right in the first place. Another failsafe way to know truth was to believe what grown-ups told you. All small children do that. Whether it’s that Santa brings the presents on Christmas Day or all unbelievers are off to hell, that’s the truth and there’s no disputing it.
I am five years old and sitting in church. We are singing choruses. Each meeting begins with a lengthy round of praise, after which, much refreshed, the congregation turns to the weightier matters of Bible exposition and extemporary prayer.
I don’t mind the choruses as I am a good little singer and they are far more interesting than the hours of tedium which follow. But there is one I don’t like.
‘And oh, my brothers (this is the Sixties remember and you were allowed to be non-inclusive)
When the world is on fire
You’ll need my Jesus, to be your Savour.
He’ll ever hide you
In the Rock of Ages
The Rock of Ages
That was cleft for you.
That was cleft for you.' (hummed by the ladies on the front row in their rapturous trance).
This chorus sacred me witless. I was convinced that as we rounded the corner back to our council house, I would see flames leaping from my bedroom window and I would cross my finger and toes in an effort to ward off the impending disaster. That always worked because the house was always standing intact when we went home.
I believed this chorus. I believed the words. I believed that the world would be on fire, and as I hadn’t much sense of time, that it was happening now. Hiding in the Rock of Ages was some small comfort, but I didn’t know where that was or if I’d have time to get there.
It was a worry.
And now I know, it wasn’t true.
Whatever anyone looks like on the outside, their soul on the inside seeks truth. It doesn’t matter if they are dressed in full military uniform, or in rags, if their hair can do with a good wash, or they grace the pages of Vogue. It doesn’t matter a fig to the soul if every inch of skin is tattooed with images of Death Metal or they dress in twinset and pearls from Marks and Spencer. Their soul seeks truth. The soul is of God and God is only interested in truth. People tend to be confused and messed-up by lies and God hates to see people like that. That’s my take on it anyway and I’m no expert, but I want to believe in a God who doesn’t play games.
The Christ I am discovering now, this real Christ, is a loving Christ, a forgiving Christ, a warm and welcoming and redeeming Christ. An authentic Christ.
And this Principle asks that I ‘make Christ known'
I could introduce others to this Christ.
This real Saviour.