It is easy to feel like you know someone when you are close to people who always have stories to tell you about them. There are many relatives I have never met, yet I have heard their stories through the eyes of my family time and time again. They become, in my mind, movies in brand-new technicolor. By the time I moved out of my parent’s house I could smell a familiar story starting, and was already prepared with a mental picture of each long-gone relative’s countenance through the whole ordeal. Through stories people become real, whether they lived on the Earth or in the mind of a creative recluse. But do we know them? Even though I have heard the story of how my grandfather’s mother pulled a table leg right out from under it and proceeded to use it as a bat one night before dinner, do I know my grandfather’s mother? Could I sit with her over some coffee and relate? Do I know where her wrinkle lines are, or what she thought life would be like? No. Even if she had left many worn journals for my father to read, would that be enough? Could I call her a friend? Could I say, “I know my great grandmother, we are friends, yes, I know who she is.” No. I could not.
If my sister had a pen pal, and through my sister I got to know her friend, do I know her? Do I know her heart for the helpless, her attachment to the color green, or the way she felt when her mother died and all she did was press her face against the bathroom window, pretending her tears were rain drops? No matter how much my sister could tell me about her pen pal, I could not call her my friend. Not until we spent time together, not through another soul, could we have an actual relationship.
I grew up hearing truths from a pulpit, and often around the dinner table. They would linger around me and sometimes sink in. If these truths had any part on my own realtionship with God though, they stopped when they got to “a-friend-of-a-friend.” God wrote letters to these truth speakers, and I listened (sometimes intently, other times blindly) to their stories. Over time it was easy to believe that I knew who God was because of the relationship He had with them. What they said, whether truth or lies, was my connection to God. And until I picked up my own letters God wrote me, and read them for myself, and said, “Hello, my name is Arianna, and I want to get to know you. I want to know what you love and what makes you hurt. I want to hear about your art, and your music, and your acts. I want to meet those who love you like I now love you, and I want to grow closer to you, and leave everything else behind.” I did not know. We were not friends. But we have been from then on.