Yesterday, I drove up to my alma mater to join my supervisor in Asia/the father figure of our Asia family for a day of meetings. It has been a little over two months since I have seen him. As I walked towards him he smiled and said, “FAMILY!” and gave me a hug. It was so comfortable and familiar. Between meetings we caught up on our lives, the ups and the downs, the questions and the confidences we hold. And there was so much care wrapping up our conversations.
As the day progressed we were joined in one of our meetings by a lady who impacted me greatly during my college experience. She walked into the room. I didn’t know she was coming. With a delight filled voice I shouted her name and got up to go give her a hug! As we sat and talked I realized how KNOWN I am by these two people. They exchanged stories of “scary moments with Shanda.” She told about the time I had to jump off of a deranged elephant and find my way back to my friends on a jungle island. [How amazing is that sentence?] He told about when I was found unconscious on a bathroom floor as a result of breaking the tile floor with my FACE. It’s so funny to hear these stories from the perspectives of the people who were “in charge” of me when they happened, but aside from being funny – it reveals how cared for I was in those moments… and today. He told her that when I was in Asia, I always knew what was going on and was a person to go to for answers. That’s definitely not fully true, but it’s nice to see someone brag about you – proud of what you’ve contributed to something beautiful. She told things about me that I never knew she knew… “You have so much introversion in you. You’re an extrovert, sure. But you do everything you do from your heart. All of it. You’ve never done anything that wasn’t from your heart. That’s exhausting. And because of that, you HAVE to have time to yourself to process and recharge. We always knew when the signs started showing… No one talk to Shanda. She needs space.” I was amazed. She is remembering this from when I was on her team 8 years ago. She chose to KNOW me then. Maybe, in some ways, better than I knew myself. And she’s never stopped KNOWING me since. She’s remained invested in me, though she’s invested in countless others since me.
I said goodbye to both of them at various points of the day, with promises to be in touch soon and relished in the fact that I’d had the chance to spend time with people who KNOW me.
I had about an 1.5 hours to kill, so I stopped by an office to say hello to a girl who’s finishing her last semester. My first memories of her are from my 7th grade year, when I spent my Saturday mornings watching her and my brother play soccer on the same team – in their blue and yellow uniforms. She remembers the awkward middle schooler I was. I remember the sometimes obnoxious little girl she was. The memories are so fresh, but it was so long ago. Recently, I went to her wedding. There are so many years of KNOWING involved in the stories we share.
When I left the building, another friend was waiting outside for me. We walked to the café, I bought a cup of coffee, and we sat down to talk. She is one of my best friends’ little sister. She just transferred to the school as a Junior. We talked about her college experience. I looked at her ENGAGEMENT ring and then I asked her, “How are you grown up? You’re my little junior higher.” She laughed and said, “I know. I told my friends… ‘I’m going to go see my Sunday School teacher.’” I taught her when she was in 8th grade. Time FLIES. And the KNOWING changes, but it never goes away.
When she had to leave to go study for a Spanish test, I called a friend who started school with me back in the day but had to leave and this year was able to start back up so he could finish. He walked across campus and joined me at my table. We talked about what it’s like for him to be a student again and we reminisced about when we were students together. I made a comment at one point, “I’m a totally different person than I was as a freshman in college!” He nodded and agreed but then stopped and I could see on his face that he was letting the memories flow through his mind and then he chuckled and said, “Yeah!!!” And I laughed loudly, enjoying the fact that he remembers THAT me and sees how different THIS me is.
I left him to go to my original roommate’s house. The 3 girls I lived with during the first 3 years of college were gathered at her house when I arrived, with their children (5 boys, ages 3 and under). These are the girls who watched/helped me change from THAT me to THIS me. Talk about being KNOWN. They KNOW me. They asked concerned questions about my life. We don’t talk everyday or even every week, but I know that they care about me as much as a person can. I spent the evening with them being KNOWN and I grabbed their older boys and tickled them every time they walked by, asked them to count my fingers, and listened to them sing the ABCs. I held their babies, bounced them up and down, made funny faces that made them giggle. We all enjoyed the comfort of life-long friendships, sharing this stage of our lives, and being KNOWN.
As I drove the 1.5 hour drive back “home” I felt so FULL. Why? Because it is such a blessing to be KNOWN, especially when it is combined with being LOVED. And as I thought about that, tears filled my eyes. I have so many beautiful representations of that in human relationships. I am so very grateful. And far beyond that, I am/we all are KNOWN by Jesus – our maker. And HE LOVES us. Beyond our understanding.