To Know

Quincy Brown


Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. It’s hard to believe that the “King of Pop” has been gone for ten years. While not ignoring the tragic events that led to his untimely death, it’s difficult for me not to go down the memory lane of my favorite Michael Jackson songs that spanned from "ABC" to "Man in the Mirror."

And who can ever forget watching the iconic footage of Michael's patented “moonwalk” after tossing his hat at Motown's 25 Anniversary?  All of these images and songs still bring tears to my eyes as I remembered the child protégé. And though, I’m in a small minority of Jackson fans, and I still believe that Off the Wall was better than Thriller.
Despite what you thought about Jackson and who he grew into, he was still a human being.  Though a bit eccentric at times, and controversial in his adult years, I suspect that Jackson’s life was a combination of superstar fame and a child-like personality.


Growing up in a bubble, creating his happiness, and a barrage of maniacal fans may have been the catalyst that ignited both Jackson's genius and pain. And there was always a little mystery surrounding Jackson suggesting that what we knew of him was only partial.
But isn’t that the way it is with all of us? There’s only a portion of ourselves that other folks know. I would argue that we don’t know people that well at all—since we continue to struggle with understanding the “man and woman in the mirror,” to be honest with ourselves about our shortcomings.
Even our family members can become highly suspect when it comes to knowing who we are. The person that we grew up with as a sibling suddenly changes—or at least we think they change since they do something out of character, or out of the expectations that we’ve confined them to, and suddenly we don’t recognize them anymore.
And then other people don't conform to our expectations—especially when it comes to the way we’re supposed to live out our faith. I’m sure that you've seen it, haven’t you? I've run across it at least once a month. It’s a person standing on a street corner holding up a sign with a message that either wants you to “honk if you love Jesus” or warning of God’s impending judgment and wrath unless people “turn from their wicked ways.” 

My responses to these “honk if you love Jesus” types are “Tithe if you love Jesus, and love your enemies if you love Jesus, any fool can honk.” Okay, so this shows my preconceived notion about commitment, discipleship and what I believe passes as Christian propaganda that doesn't necessarily require us to take a hard look in the mirror, surrender to Jesus, and take up our crosses. But I digress.
In most cases, when I encounter a person holding up such a sign, however, I keep my comments to myself, though I’m guilty of thinking some very cynical thoughts. This experience happened to Dionne and me once as we were traveling. As we exited the interstate, we noticed a lady dressed in all white with a yellow sign on the shoulder of the road at the entrance of the main street.  The poster was scripture quotes in big, bold letters filled with “Shalt’s and Shalt Not's." For some reason, the sign bothered me. Surely there was a better way of doing things in the name of God. 
As I squirmed in my car while waiting for the traffic light to turn green, I began to ask myself the question, “What does it mean to ‘know' something?” Perhaps it was inappropriate, but I started chasing the problem, “What would this lady do with persons who believed or did not believe her message?” This mental exercise reminded me of The National Inquirer's once famous slogan: "inquiring minds what to know…" 

Okay, so I admit that I occasionally glance (not buy or believe) at those outrageous articles about aliens, monsters, and the Bermuda Triangle when I’m in the check out line at the grocery store. Sometimes I believe these magazines are strategically placed there to stir folks. Perhaps this is why the “street preacher” was at the busy intersection.
How do we know? I was taught to “know” means to have a grasp or an understanding of something or someone. This definition implies some revelation. That is to "know" requires a sort of personal grasp of a concept or a person. It means that to know something honestly. There has to be a process of disclosing or “making known.” 
As a minister, I know that God can show up in unsuspecting places and ways. But instead, I'd rather that God would show up in ways that I'm more comfortable with so that I don't have to deal with being different.
Perhaps this was why was it was so easy for me to point out how misguided the lady dressed in white’s theology was and how ineffective her approach was in making people see the errors of their ways. Rather than trying to see things from her perspective and giving her benefit of the doubt, it was much easier to write her off as some religious fanatic.
When the light at the intersection finally turned green, I sped off and turned my head in the opposite direction so that I would not have to make eye contact with the lady. Was I ashamed?  Was I intellectually “turned off” due to her method? Or was it that I knew that she was there publicly disclosing herself by stating her beliefs? 
Maybe to "know" and to "believe" is not as divided into the private and public realm as we would like to think. Perhaps the acid test to whether or not we "know" something is found in our courage to disclose our thoughts to risk being "known" by others.
Maybe we ought to alter our fundamental assumption about what it means to be witnesses for Christ and not necessarily judges for God. Perhaps God shows up in forms like the lady dressed in white to prompt us to “know ourselves” and show ourselves to others.

On the Journey,


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