When I need to work, or read, or really just get out of the house, I go to the coffee shop. It’s always the same one. It’s not particularly close to my house, and in fact when Austin traffic is at its peak, it’s a fairly long drive. Yet even though I have an office that is significantly closer, and where I can get free drinks and wifi, I go to my coffee shop. Maybe I just like to waste my time and procrastinate by driving. Maybe I like the work environment there, or maybe I’m just stubborn and don’t want to go to the office or work from home. My actual reason that I continue to go to the coffee shop is much simpler, and really kind of dumb if you think about it, but it is the reason I will continue to drive 20 minutes out of my way to work and study for the foreseeable future. The reason I continue to go to “my” coffee shop is because they remember my order.
Let’s be honest, remembering my order is not a super valid reason to waste so much gas and time getting there. The fact that I go there so regularly is probably the reason they know my order, but here I am, sitting in the same coffee shop I always do, drinking a cup of coffee I could have made for free at home. There’s something about feeling known in a place that keeps me coming back though. Maybe you’ve experienced this. Maybe you have that one place that just feels like its yours. It makes me think of going to a local pizza place in Dallas a week or two back, and a group of older men came in and told the hostess they’d have their usual. She didn’t have to check anything, or look at the menu or even type anything into the cash register, she immediately told them their total, which they were already prepared with in cash. To see that glimmer of recognition in someone’s eye, to not be a stranger. To be remembered is valuable, and that makes it worth it to me.
As humans, we like the comfortable, even if it doesn’t make sense. It’s the reason a kid will hold on to the same tattered blanket from infancy well into their childhood. We long to feel known, like someone cares about us. It’s the reason we work so hard to follow the latest trends, to say the right things around our friend group, to be accepted in general. We want to be known. We want to be accepted and not rejected. We want something familiar and comfortable, something we can trust will be there when we need it.
This week I was reading in the Psalms with some students, and we were in one of my favorites, Psalm 139. This passage in scripture speaks of the depth of the knowledge of God. What captured my attention in reading it this week though is that this Psalm does not speak vaguely about His general omniscience, but instead this entire scripture speaks very specifically about God’s knowledge of people, of me. It says he knows my thoughts (v.2), every move that I make (v.3), and my words before they are even on my tongue (v.4). God’s word says that He knows everything about me, and that as His creation there is nowhere I can go outside of His knowledge and presence, that there is nowhere and nothing hidden from Him from the beginning to end of time (v.7-16). At first glance this can make God seem a bit like Santa Claus. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Santa Claus is not God, and God is not Santa Claus. God is not sitting in heaven, peering over the clouds waiting for you to mess up so he can jump out and say gotcha, minus ten points for Gryffindor. God is not like our friends who we feel like we have to impress for approval. This scripture says something phenomenal when looked at in light of the Gospel. Psalm 139 is saying that before time began, God knew you (v.16). He didn’t just know the mask you put up to make people happy, he knew the real you. He knew the stuff you don’t want your friends to know about you, the mess, the mistakes, he knew all of it. He saw all that you would be, and said that you are His wonderful work (v.14), even knowing that you would be tainted by the sin that poisons the world. Knowing this, He put on flesh (John 1:14), and chose to go to the cross and endure the punishment for our filth, our sin (Romans 5:8). God is not like Santa Claus. You don’t have to clean yourself up first to receive His gift. God is not like your friends. You don’t have to work for His approval, He already knows where you’ve messed up. We must only come to Him in faith that Jesus paid for our mess on the cross, and live in the transforming grace of that truth (Ephesians 2:8).
As humans we want to feel known. We will go to the end of ourselves to find that place that accepts us. Jesus knows us as more than just a coffee order, or as that guy or girl from the office. He knows us fully and intimately, and offers to lead us in the way everlasting (v.24).