It is a most interesting phenomenon. Since around Christmastime people who have known me since we moved to Cortez nearly nine years ago walk right by me. I say hello and they nod with blank expressions. More often than not, the person will turn around and say, "Steve is that you?"
At the doctor's office the other day, I checked in at the desk saying, "I'm here." My favorite nurse looked confused. I quickly said, "Steve ... Steve Nofel, for my 4:30 appointment." Then she smiled and greeted me.
At a recent meeting at the Presbyterian/Methodist Church in Towaoc, a longtime member of the steering committee asked in a polite voice, "Can I help you?" as I walked into the church. She asked it in a way you address any first time visitor. It was surprising because it is a person with whom I have served for a long time.
You see, over fall and winter I have lost some weight. Then, during the Christmas season I cut off my mustache and beard. I have even been wearing some new clothes, including a couple of hats I pull way down on my forehead. I totally get it that sometimes people don't know me right away. I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder whose narrow clean-shaven face that might be.
Some people may not know me. At times I may not see the Steve I am used to in the mirror. I am assured that the Lord God always recognizes me and knows me inside and out.
"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways." - Psalm 139:1-3
The Lord just doesn't know us on the outside. The Lord recognizes us on the inside. When we are charitable, the Lord knows us. When we are selfish, the Lord knows us. When we act like we are strangers to Him, He still knows us.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts." - Psalm 139:23
The Lord can see right into our hearts and minds. He knows; He always knows what is going on inside me. He knows me - the real me.
"See if there is any wicked/hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." - Psalm 139:24
Yes, the Lord recognizes me when I am unlovable. He knows me when I am hurting myself or others, and yet, he still leads me in ways everlasting. Over and over again, when we can't even recognize ourselves because of our own sinfulness, He knows us and claims us.
Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep." - John 10:14-15
He knows us and claims us. He took our sin and our sinfulness on His shoulders. He died for us. He rose for us. He forgives, saves, loves, and redeems.
As we move deeper into this season of Lent, the time to prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, remember He knows you intimately, loves you deeply and saves you forever.
The Rev. Steve Nofel is co-pastor of Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church.