My Greatest Fear

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Ever since I was very young, I’ve had a fear of being misunderstood. I wasn’t very close to my grade school classmates, but I felt that if they just knew me, they would want to be my friend.

This fear came with somewhat of a skill, I guess. I was fairly emotionally perceptive. Whenever two people I cared about were in the middle of an argument, I was often the first to realize they were talking on totally different wavelengths, and if they could just understand each other, all would be well again.

But this hyper-sensitivity to disagreement took on a pathological shape as well. If I got in a disagreement with anyone, I was desperate to be understood. Knowing that someone believed something false about me was beyond uncomfortable; It was unbearable. And so if someone didn’t understand the way I acted, I often acted differently, so I could be more easily understood.

“Knowing someone believed something false about me was beyond uncomfortable; It was unbearable.”

As God would have it, he put me in a life situation a couple of years ago that left me no direction out that included being understood by everyone. The route I chose tore my heart apart. But in retrospect, I believe even that was by God’s design. I hope to eventually find a way to share that story that doesn’t put particular people in the spotlight—because the perpetrator is not the star of that story. God is. Suffice it to say that I did my very best to fit someone else’s image of what a godly person looks like. My two options were: keep living that lie and let this person use me to hurt others, or take some pretty drastic action that would be misunderstood by many.

But in taking the understanding of others away from me, God gave me something far greater. He gave me a backbone.

Life began to look different after that. I came to find that a backbone was an extremely useful thing to have if you wanted to get promoted, be productive, and be respected. It completely changed how I interacted with the world.

My family felt as though they were getting their old Luke back, but I felt different than I had ever felt before.

A backbone freed me from being the slave of other’s opinions. I no longer fit into the jelly bowl that certain manipulators had carried me around in for years.

But I quickly attached myself to a new master. If anyone would have asked me at this point: “Luke, what is your greatest fear?” I would have responded, “Being unremarkable.”

“But I quickly attached myself to a new master.”

Being misunderstood was still uncomfortable, but I had already experienced how life could move on after gaining an “enemy” (someone who has no desire to understand you).

So in an effort to be remarkable, I made a name for myself at work. I was well-liked as far as I could tell, and I was respected. I could have disagreements with people—and they would respect me all the more for it!

I got a new job and advocated for my own needs, which was honestly a new experience for me! I was admired for my skills, and I was talked about favorably wherever I went. Not everyone needed to understand me. Not everyone deserved to understand me.

But I started to recognize a pattern in my life. I would come home, pumped up from a day of interacting with people I liked and I would just feel empty.

“…I would just feel empty.”

One night, really not that long ago, I had to cry out, “God, I feel like no one knows the real me.” I was suddenly horrified. That sounded a whole lot like, “I’m afraid of being misunderstood.” Was I falling back into that old fear that I thought I had conquered?

Then another thought hit me.

“No one knows me” sounds a whole lot like “I’m not worth knowing. . . I’m unremarkable.” I hadn’t conquered a fear and moved onto a new one. It was the same old fear all along.

I’m afraid of being unknown.

For about 30 seconds I puzzled over this new revelation in silence. But it wasn’t long before I heard another voice in my head.

I know you.”

At first it was said in a quiet but confident voice.

I know you.”

But it seemed to grow a little in volume and certainty.

“I know you.”

Once again, a little more certain, as if it knew I didn’t believe it.

“I KNOW you.”

It hit a little different that time—a different kind of knowing.


The voice was firmer, practically shouting, as if it was almost angry at me for forgetting. But there was unmistakable kindness behind the words.

“I KNOWWWWW YOU. I, the LORD God Almighty who made the heavens and earth. I know your name. I know your story. I know your hurts. I know your fears. I know your failings. Yes, the ways you have failed me, but also the ways you’ve failed yourself. The things you feel guilty about the moment you wake up in the morning. I know the bad things you’ve done and the good you haven’t done. I know you and love you.”

I lay on my couch in silence, a little taken aback. It wasn’t some audible voice from God, but he was speaking to me nonetheless.

A tear ran down my face. How could I have forgotten? I had forgotten. In that moment if felt more real than before. Of course I knew all of this in theory, but here God was speaking to just me.

He says it to you too. “I know you. You belong. Do you want to know me?”

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