“Are you missing South Africa?” I asked Caleb as we sat together outside watching our puppy, Kholo romp and rollick in our back yard this morning.
“Yes,” Caleb replied. “I miss my people.”
Caleb paused a moment. Then he continued, “We’re starting all over again, aren’t we, Mom?”
“Yes, Caleb,” I agreed. “We are starting all over again.”
I didn’t continue to unpack Caleb’s thoughts at that moment. After all, we’re watching a puppy – who is delightfully exploring every facet of our back garden – the sticks, the rocks, the sprinkler system, the plants, the bushes, the trees, and all the you-name-it-she’s-found-it menagerie. So, Caleb and I couldn’t go any further – but we will – just … later.
Yet, Caleb’s and my moment reminded me of another occasion, just two days ago, that caused the deep emotions in my heart to surface again. I was prompted to think about where our family had once been and where we are now.
Two days ago, I was asked to read the following words at the start of our women’s morning Bible study:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
New International Version, Genesis 12: 1 – 3
I barely extricated the words from my mouth. Pregnant with emotion and meaning, these verses dug into the open wounds in my heart.
And then I choked, “I’m sorry. I’m living these words right now.”
I read on….
….“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you…
Sniffle. Snort. Choke.
I was asked to read three verses at the start of a study, and I barely made it through them. My heart ached for friends, for family, for places, for all the precious, crazy, upside-down-turn-around, I-wouldn’t-have-missed-any-of-it-for-the-world moments our family shared in South Africa.
And yet, here we are.
Called to a new place.
Invited into a new space.
Challenged to leave all that we knew and loved, to come and serve.
To die to ourselves again.
Isn’t that what we are exhorted to do – as we grow in love and knowledge of Christ?
Paul believes so:
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
New International Version, Philippians 3: 10 -11
Recently, I learned that there are two words in Greek that mean ‘know.’
The first Greek word for know is gnosis. Gnosis is an intellectual knowledge. When Paul writes that he desires to know Christ, he isn’t using the gnosis meaning. After all, before his conversion, Paul knew of Jesus.
However, he didn’t really know Jesus when Paul was in pursuit of Jesus followers, did he?
No, the second Greek word for know is epignosis. Epignosis is a relational, emotional, spiritual attachment and knowledge. To go further, epignosis means an intimate knowledge, a secure attachment, a deep, mutual sharing, a lasting and deep security, and belonging. Epignosis is the Greek word that Paul uses in Philippians 3: 10 – Paul wanted to know Christ.
It was an issue of to know or to know.
Paul wanted to belong to Christ.
He wanted to be secure in Christ.
He wanted to be intimate with Christ.
Paul wanted to share with Christ – in everything – in the power and strength of Christ and in the suffering and loss and pain of Christ, too.
He didn’t want to just know Christ.
As followers of Jesus, we cannot enjoy and relish in the love, strength, and blessings of Christ without experiencing the loss and suffering He experienced as well. Joy and suffering are intertwined. Because for Christ followers, loss and death lead to resurrection and life.
Jesus transcends our sadness, loss, suffering, and death because He has overcome them! Jesus is Lord!
As I type these strengthening words, my heart is encouraged.
I have wondered in recent months – where do I belong?
I have pondered in recent months – who am I?
I have struggled in recent months – what am I doing and what for?
Yet, when I turn my attention away from myself and focus on Jesus – focus on knowing Him more, sharing with Him, crying to Him, and releasing to Him all that is in my heart – I feel better.
I just do.
This has not been the easiest eighteen months for any of us. Some of us have had it worse than others. Some may confess they haven’t had it as bad. Yet, that doesn’t mean that this past year and a half hasn’t affected us. We are all impacted by the changes the pandemic has disbursed into our lives in various ways – some tragic, some heart-wrenching, some upside-down-turn-around, some isolating, some grievous, some stretching, and for some of us, completely life-altering.
It all has been…Just. Plain. Hard.
Yet, if we look to Jesus as we enter a new land, a new space, a new place, a new life, and seek to know Him – really know Him – our broken, wounded, stretched, shaken and shattered hearts can be filled with His love and His strengthening, heart-lifting grace.
Do you know Jesus?
Do you know Creator Sets Free?
Do you know the One who empathizes with our grief and sorrows and who can help us heal and grow and be free in Christ through our hardships and sadnesses?
This morning, Caleb and I grieved for South Africa. Our sadness won’t just disappear. The fifteen years we lived there – changed us, grew us, strengthened us, and blessed us. And just like where we are now, the love we have for South Africa and the blessings we experienced didn’t materialize over the course of a few, initial months. We left our homeland to begin again in South Africa and became known. We grew in Christ in new ways – there. Today, we have the same opportunity. We departed South Africa to begin again in New Mexico. We seek to know Christ and discover our identity, our belonging, and our hope in Him.
We are told that blessings await us in Christ.
We look to Him for comfort, peace, and grace as we begin again to know Christ even more.
Want to join us in knowing Jesus more?