Sometimes you meet someone and it seems as if you have known them all your life. The friendship is immediate and close. Other people you can know for a lifetime and never really feel like they are anything other than an acquaintance.
“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” That’s Jesus speaking to one of his disciples. “Show us the Father and that will be enough,” Philip had said. What was it that he wanted to see that he had not seen in his relationship with Jesus?
Bernie Sanders – If I’m doing the math right, he has served in Congress and the Senate for 30 years. You can be a “public figure” and hold consistent positions for decades; but when Senator Sanders began his run for the presidency he was largely a national ‘unknown’. All that has changed as our entire nation and much of the world has felt the heat of “The Bern“.
Hillary Clinton has been on the national stage for 24 years. “There is nothing simple about Hillary Clinton,” says Rebecca Traister on the cover of New York Magazine. Ms. Clinton is about as well-known as a person can be, having been the spouse of a governor turned president, a senator from one of our nation’s largest states, the Secretary of State for four years and now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. But she is “complicated” and one of the criticisms she has to deal with is the sense so many people have that they don’t know who she really is.
And then there’s Donald Trump. He has been around forever! I read the bio on the TRUMP web site: “Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports, and entertainment. He is the archetypal businessman – a deal maker without peer.” “Archetypal” – that’s a big word; but I suppose it supports the image Mr. Trump seems to have of himself. I have to admit that I am praying that I don’t know Mr. Trump and by that I simply mean this: If he is anything like what he has demonstrated throughout the primary season, he is the last person I would ever want as a president. If he is elected, I hope he will surprise me.
Perhaps the public persona of these people does no justice to their soul – who they truly are. Of the three, I suspect Senator Sander’s supporters would say that he is the most transparent, the one with the most integrity. They would suggest that his consistency on the issues betrays a man given to his convictions, dependable and honest. But does the fact that, according to an article in TIME Magazine, fully a third of Mr. Sanders’ supporters would vote for Donald Trump should their candidate not be the Democratic nominee – does that tell us anything about the Independent Senator from Vermont that might suggest we don’t know him as well as we thought we did?
I don’t have the exposure Sanders, Clinton and Trump enjoy – or have to endure. But in my somewhat public role as a pastor of a local church in a small New England City, and over the course of my pastoral career, I’ve learned something about myself. It takes me about seven years before I get to know myself in any given context. It takes me seven years to begin to feel at home in a place. And because I tend to be somewhat introverted, I think it takes about that long for others to truly get to know me. At least, it takes that long before I find that I begin to trust a person.
That means it would take me, assuming a year of campaigning, three quarters into my second term as president were I ever to be elected to the office, before I would begin to feel “at home” in the role. And if I were elected only for one term, I would go through those four years so fast I wouldn’t know what hit me.
As near as we can tell, Philip could not have known Jesus for more than three years. Of course, when you are 30 years old, that represents 10% of your life. But I wonder … Was Jesus an “old soul”? Was he the same – yesterday, today, tomorrow? Was he not just consistent in his positions, but so authentic in his person as to be completely transparent? Was he telling Philip that he had no more to show him, nothing more to offer?
Sometimes it is frightening what we will allow ourselves to believe about another person – for good or ill. I believe Jesus is the Christ – the human, visible image of the divine, invisible God. He is the one who seems to have known me all my life long. That might sound crazy to some people; but if I didn’t believe that about Jesus I’m not sure I would ever be able to get to know anyone else.