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To be known...

Posted: January 13, 2015

Last night I joined the St. Patrick’s crew at Loaves and Fishes for our monthly meal at Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis. The temperature was below zero but it didn’t put a damper on the festive mood! Deb and Lynda arrived early to prepare the meal. As we descended the old stairs to the basement, we were greeted with smells of comfort food… meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

The sounds of laughter and friendship quickly filled the kitchen. Volunteers greeted each other with smiles and hugs. Quick introductions were made for new members. In minutes, everyone jumped into action! The salad was tossed. Mashed potatoes and gravy were taken out of the hot boxes. Sinks were filled with dish soap! And, the serving line was set up. Before we knew it our guests would be arriving…

As we surveyed the crowd, we saw lots of regulars. It looked like it was going to be a busy night.The site coordinator opened the doors early so our guests would not have to wait outside in the cold. She mentioned that the numbers were down the last few days because of the harsh weather. But, we knew that we would have lots of hungry guests! The official count was 140, but several people came in after the final number was tallied and there were lots of seconds!

Guests were seeking a warm meal and a few minutes respite from the cold. Perhaps they were also seeking a place to be known. Jesus said that we are known and beloved… This is not a distant relationship with a stranger. It is intimate. What a powerful image. But, it goes beyond that. God speaks of knowing us. 

It is not only that we seek God, but God is always seeking a deeper relationship with us. It is not a capricious love, it is an, “all in”… In Tattoos in the Heart, Fr. Gregory Boyle speaks of the, “no matter whatness of God”. This is not the fickle love of a friend who walks away after years without a word or the teen best friend circle who has cast you aside for someone, “cooler.” It is not the ex-spouse who decided that he or she no longer loves you. It is different and profound.

God calls us into a deep relationship knowing all of our faults, failings and mistakes and loves us in spite of ourselves. It is the, “home coming”… St. Augustine has written that, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” There is nothing in the text that says that we must be polished, shiny or brand new. 

In fact, we can be broke, weary and worn out. Jesus assures us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest”…This message is almost beyond what we can hold, because we have become so accustomed to striving to meet other people’s expectations. And, sometimes we fall short. 

If we are lucky, we have a few people in our inner circle that allow us to drop the pretense and be our most authentic selves. Unconditional love is a rare gift. But, if we wade deeper into a relationship with God, we experience complete acceptance. We can finally relax. We no longer have to impress or to be on guard. 

This love comes at a high price…it will break us open. God transforms us into the best version of ourselves, because ultimately love heals all of our wounds. Perhaps it is like a roller coaster ride… We never know what to expect. There may be wild highs and lows, but eventually we arrive at our destination.

As I reflect back on all of the weary who joined us last night, there was hope, laughter, and friendship in that basement cafeteria. By looking at people’s faces, I could see the harsh reality of too much time spent outside in subzero temperatures with unimaginable struggles. And, yet there was grace and gratitude.

I think these nights are really about God’s call to enter into a deeper and more spacious relationship, one that is based on love and hospitality. Maybe God’s love is like a warm meal on a cold night, everything else is stripped away. 

To be known is to be loved. Regardless of where we are on our journey, even if we are walking alone in downtown Minneapolis in subzero temperatures with only a backpack, we are not forgotten. Even there… we are, “known.”