“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
A couple of weeks ago, I had to have a new work ID printed because the old one was about to expire. Of course, that meant I had to have a new picture taken as well. When I got the new ID, the picture didn’t look like me; I wasn’t wearing my glasses (because of concerns about glare) and I had a goofy expression. (And yes, I can hear some of you saying that sounds like me.) I liked my old ID photo with glasses and what I consider a “normal” expression. Fortunately for me, by the time I need another ID I’ll probably be retired.
Even though I’m not wearing my glasses in my ID photo you can still tell it’s me. Because of this, there’s something I don’t understand. I’ve been a fan of Superman since I was a boy but I’ve never been able to figure out how his “secret identity” of Clark Kent works. All he has to do is put on glasses and nobody knows he’s Superman. But I’ve been wearing glasses since I was in grade school and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t recognize me without them, even though I only take them off in the shower or in bed — or, in certain instances, for photographs. Later versions of Superman had him slump and adopt a diffident manner as Clark Kent but in the earliest versions he acted essentially the same no matter which guise he was in at the moment.
If Superman were real, though, there’s one person who would know who he was. Jesus said, “‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’” (John 10:27 ESV). Even when his disciples didn’t recognize him, like Mary Magdalene after the resurrection (John 20:11-18) or Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), or when they pretended not to know him, like Peter on the night before the crucifixion (Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27), he still knew them.
Sandy Huttenga, of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, points out that God knows us by name (https://www.crcna.org/resources/church-resources/reading-sermons/walking-god-god-who-knows-us-name). Huttenga begins with Moses and continues through the gospels. When Moses approached the burning bush, God called him by name: “‘Moses, Moses!’” (Exod. 3:4b ESV). When the disciple Nathanael met Jesus, he asked, “‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” (John 1:48b ESV). When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, he asked her to bring her husband (John 4:16). “The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.’” (vs. 17-19). They had never met but he knew her. To this list I would add David, the psalmist and king. He wrote, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! / You search out my path and my lying down / and are acquainted with all my ways.” (Psa. 139:1 & 3 ESV).
And God didn’t just know Moses, David, Nathanael and the unnamed Samaritan woman, God had plans for each of them. God had plans to make Moses a leader, David a king, Nathanael a disciple and the Samaritan woman a witness. John tells us that “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” (John 4:39 ESV).
They’re not the only ones. God has a plan for each of us. God knows us and has a place for us. It doesn’t matter how we try to disguise ourselves or what name we use, God knows who and where we are. With or without glasses, God knows me. Whether I wear a normal expression or a goofy one, God knows me. God knows all about each of us (Matt. 10:29-31). We don’t need to be leaders or kings in order to be disciples and witnesses. We can share what God has done for us, testifying like the Samaritan woman.
“You search out my path and my lying down / and are acquainted with all my ways. / Even before a word is on my tongue, / behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. / You hem me in, behind and before, / and lay your hand upon me. / Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; / it is high; I cannot attain it. / Where shall I go from your Spirit? / Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psa. 139:3-7 ESV.)