“Where are we in God’s Rolodex? — or what it means to know God and not merely know of Him”

We hear a lot about the importance of “knowing God” and not just “knowing about God.” We also hear Christians frequently testify that “I don’t have a religion; I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I believe both of these are very important, even crucial.

But I’ve often thought, “what does it really mean to “know God” or to have a “personal relationship” with our Creator?” Is it some kind of feeling we get? Does it mean He talks to us somehow apart from Scripture? What distinguishes those who know God from those who merely know of God?

As a practicing attorney now for 22 years and whose career lifeblood has depended on my networking skills, I’ve acquired over time what might be described as “a big fat Rolodex.” Actually, several years ago I went totally electronic and it’s actually and Outlook database, but you get the point. I’ve got thousands of names in the Rolodex representing nearly everyone I’ve ever even met and in many case people I’ve never met but only telephoned or emailed.

As a result, a regular thing that happens to me is I end up assisting people looking for jobs who desire to pump me for contacts in their job search. Sometimes it’s people I know who seek my assistance in their networking and sometimes it’s actually people I don’t know who have received my name after visiting someone I do know who sent them my way. (It kind of reminds me of that old line about sexually transmitted disease, I guess every time you network with someone you need to be aware that you’re really networking with every person they’ve ever networked with!) I don’t mind helping even strangers in their job search because I’ve been unemployed myself before (1993) and actually my company today is downsizing me out of employment so I feel that “what goes around comes around”.

When I meet with these people, I usually go through my Rolodex and suggest they contact people using my name. As I look through the names and addresses I’ve collected I am reminded that I don’t “know” everybody equally, and I often feel the need to disclose that to the person I’m helping.

It usually goes like this:

. . . .

“Ernie Email and I worked on a couple of projects together. Apart from exchanging emails, we’ve never actually communicated. He’s never called me on the phone even. But feel free to contact him if you want to.

“Tom Jones here is a big player in the tidily winks industry. I met him once at the preschool toy convention. I don’t think he’d remember me, but he might. I haven’t spoken to him since we first met. Send him a letter, but don’t get your hopes up.

“Angela Adversaria was the attorney who represented MindOverMatter.com when we did that big deal last year with them. She’d remember me for sure but we were on opposite sides of the table. But if you want an “in” at MindOverMatter.com then you should definitely try her.

“Harry James here is a powerhouse banker. We went golfing five years ago, so I think he’d remember me, but he might not recognize my name immediately. You might have to remind him that I played golf with him and accidentally broke his putter. That will jog his memory.”

“Martha Mewart is a very well known domestic engineering consultant and author. I solicited her business several times, but she kindly and politely declined. There’s no doubt she’ll remember me but I’m not positive that she’ll want to do you any favors just because I asked. But give it a shot.

“Mike Mammon is a real estate broker who owes me money and hasn’t paid. I keep calling him but he hasn’t returned my call recently. But he knows a lot of people so why don’t you go ahead and give it a try. He definitely will know my name when you use it.

“Larry Potter used to be a client of mine. I handled all his legal work and he paid my bills so I guess he was satisfied, but I haven’t heard from him in quite some time. I’m not really sure where he is now or if this phone number is still good. But if you are able to reach him and you say I said to call, I think he’ll call you back and maybe he can help.

“Neil Picatta was one of my best clients. He controls the outer space industry nearly single handedly. He called me whenever he needed legal work and was very happy and loyal, but we never socialized so I don’t know anything about his personal life. The subject of wife or kids or whatever never came up. It was just business. But if you say I told you to call, I’m sure he’ll call you back.

“Carl O’my was a former colleague of mind when I worked at Dewey Cheathem & Ifsohowe. We used to lunch together and worked together a lot. He later left that firm and became a good source of referral work when he joined Huge, Greed and Vice. If you say I’m helping you, I’m sure he’ll see if he has anyway to help you.

“Bruce Tiller has been my friend since grade school. We’re like brothers. Although there were times when I lost touch with him, whenever we renewed our friendship it was like no time had passed at all. If you say you’re a friend of mine, you’ll be his friend too and he’ll do whatever he can for you.

“This is the number of my Mom and my wife. If all else fails, call them.”

. . . .

O.K., then, I hope you were just a teeny bit amused by these descriptions, but here’s the spiritual observation: in our lives we come to “know” a great many people, but what it means to “know” someone can vary by an incredible amount. When it comes to us talking about “knowing God” or “having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” the English language is woefully inadequate.

When we say we “know” someone, actually, in some cases, we’ve only just met him or her. In some cases, people we “know” might not “know” or even remember us. This circumstance results from a failure to have follow-up communications necessary to develop a relationship. In some cases we “know” people who might not think so highly of us, yet it’s still true to say we “know” them. In this case, what is known might actually deny or inhibit a personal relationship.

For other people, we “know” them truly, but in a great many different degrees. There’s the person who knows who we are. There’s the person who remembers us fondly, but only superficially or in certain aspects of our lives and not others. There’s the person who appreciates something we have done for them and there is the person who knows us well, who socializes with us and with whom we have a “history” together.

Then there are friends. These are the people who know us intimately, know us in detail, and who would gladly help us however they may. These people also know our faults, and forgive us for them. These people actually enjoy our company and spending time with us. You can’t count on these people.

Finally, there’s family. They know us as much as anyone can. They know us “24 X 7X 365”. They know us before our teeth are brushed. They know not only our strengths but also our weaknesses. They know our attributes, personality, wants, likes and dislikes. These people love us through thick and thin, even when we’re down right unlovable.

What’s the common denominator? It’s that the level of our being able to say we “know” someone else is directly related to the knowledge these people have of us, not the other way around. I may know all about someone, but if they don’t know me, then I don’t know them at all. They’re just someone I know of. If there’s been no regular communication, I don’t or no longer “know” them.

But if we have a deep and broad relationship with someone, who knows us well in all aspects of our life, who enjoys our company and who truly loves us and would do anything for us, then we can truly say they are our friends or our family. Then we can truly say we have a “personal relationship.”

Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “where, then, are we in God’s Rolodex?”

That is, if God were describing His relationship with you, what would He say? He merely met us? We know His name? We know Him well from working together on things we needed but apart from that we don’t really know what He’s about? We were His adversary? We have broken our promises? Or would He say we’d respond to His call and do what He asked? Would He say we know all about His attributes and will for this world?

Would He say we “know” him or just of him? Does our knowledge of him rise to the level of friend? of family?