To Know or Not to Know? That is the question
“What does it mean to know God?” A reader sent this question recently, and it just about floored me. This isn’t a surface-level inquiry about a particular doctrine or practice. This is one of those deep, fundamental questions that digs down into the heart of human existence. Every single person needs to ask themselves this question. God placed it on our hearts, and it demands an answer.
How would you answer this question? At first, I wasn’t sure. But then, I thought about my relationship with my wife and, providentially, my thoughts on knowing God fell into place.
AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION
Before explaining further, I want to make an important clarification. There’s a difference between “knowing” God and “knowing about” God.
Knowing about God means I have collected facts that describe Him. Public universities have atheists teaching religion classes for this very reason, because they know a lot about God. But, we’re after something deeper: truly knowing Him.
Here’s where my wife comes in.
A BLESSED COURTSHIP
I met my wife, Amy, through the Catholic website called “Phatmass.” It provides a forum for Catholic teens and young adults to start conversations, learn about and share their faith, and even listen to some Catholic rap music – which, yes, is an actual thing.
One discussion thread asked for a link to readers’ personal websites. In the age before Facebook, to share yourself with the world, that’s what you did, you created your own website. Well, she had one, and on a whim, I clicked on it and started learning all about this amazing young woman. There were essays and papers she had written; drawings, paintings, and graphic designs she had created; and photos she had taken – it was a spectacular collection. She was so beautiful, creative, and intelligent, I wanted to learn everything I could about her.
Finally, I mustered up enough courage to send a message saying I thought she was great, and I wanted to get to know her better. To my surprise, she responded kindly.
We began chatting online, then talked on the phone or via video chat, until I took the big leap and flew to Maine to meet her in person. That was the first of many flights, either me to Maine or her to Kentucky. We went to the same college, eventually got married and now we have four kids!
It’s been a wild ride, but a good one. What I learned about Amy through her website certainly pales in comparison to what I know about her now. And that real and genuine knowing became possible for me only once I reached out. When I said, “I think you’re great and I want to get to know you better,” only then did the process of really knowing her begin.
ACCEPT THE INVITATION
The same pattern plays itself out in reference to God. If you want to experience what knowing God is like, then give it a try. Reach out to God. Tell Him you want to know Him better. Learn about Him, yes, as much as you can, but also commit yourself to Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Share your life with Him and allow Him to share His life with you. Then, you will know Him.
To put it simply: Knowing God, and not just knowing about
God, comes by way of relationship.
As Catholics, our relationship with God is cultivated primarily through prayer, going to Mass, receiving the sacraments, and reading the Bible. But there are many, many ways to encounter God and to know Him better. They are as varied as the people He loves so much.
You are one of those people. He loves you, too.
Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. [email protected].
This article appeared in the February 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.