On Being Known

by | Mar 11, 2013 | Uncategorized


My family had just settled into our menus around a square table when I spotted friends out of the corner of my eye, coming through the front door of the restaurant. A family I hadn’t seen since the church split three months ago. Our eyes met. I stood up in response to the smile that spread across her face. And swallowed the lump in my throat.

She reached her arms around me and said, “I just caught up on your blog posts today so I feel like I’m all caught up on Shelly.” I shook my head and smiled through her chuckles.

It’s becoming more common for me now and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to it; the gift of someone reading my words and then letting me know about it. It’s humbling. And in cases like this: healing.

A few weeks after that brief encounter, I sat behind the wheel of my van on the way to pick up my son from school, feeling the ambient light warm up my face as I slowed toward the stop light. I thought about what she said to me, how she felt caught up on my life and we hadn’t seen one another in three months. Our sons had each grown a foot taller.

I scrolled through similar conversations in my mind. Some while leaning on the handles of shopping carts among the produce or standing behind the trunk of my car. Over lattes at Starbucks and seated next to strangers in pews, I thought about how often I’d heard the echo, sometimes from people I’d just met.

And I told God, as tall palms blurred past, how ironic that is for me. How quiet my life is now, how little I feel known by anyone in my community. “Why is that,” I asked Him.

“They read my words too and they feel like they know me,” He said. “I am a man of sorrows.”

I bent over the rail of my loneliness, the altar strewn with questions beginning “why”.  And He answers each one the same way. “I know you.”

Sometimes community fits perfectly in the empty room of our wondering and we learn from the fullness of its silence. That we’re only truly known by an audience of One.


But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. Isaiah 53:3, MSG

Linking with Ann and counting thanks over the way God speaks when I least expect it. That He is often silent but never still in His love for us. Also in community with Laura, Michelle, Jen and Heather.

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  1. Alyssa Santos

    oh, those seasons of silent community with God seem at first to be lonely, but as we settle in, we find such acceptance and friendship in Him. And they are rich seasons and blooming deserts where grace shimmers and we learn more about the human side of Jesus’ and the trail he walked to calvary. Blessings, Alyssa

    • Shelly Miller

      I love that imagery Alyssa, of a desert blooming during seasons of silent community. Though hard, they have proven to be times of beautiful growth for me, in ways I never imagined. Thank you for such a beautiful comment.

  2. Lolita Valle

    And now I have Him in my heart. He dines with me and I partake and commune with Him. For a time I a deaf to His soft knocking…… and I did my way, a very unfortunate way, then I encountered Him in the my mire……. Thank you Jesus, you suffered for me, Thanks for your redemption.

    It is beautiful always, Shelly. His redemption is and I thank you for all the subtle ways He reminds us through your words.

    • Lolita Valle

      Sorry, I meant “I was deaf….”

      • Shelly Miller

        So thankful for the way Christ dwells in you and shines through your words Lolita. May His Kingdom come, His will be done in your life my friend.

  3. JoAnne Potter

    We have experienced, too, the lonliness that follows a church split. I keep wondering why it has to be this way, but know we are not in charge of it all, just of what we must do before God. And I am grateful. In the end, we are, as you say, known to an audience of One, and that One is enough. The rest will, if He wills it, come.

    • Shelly Miller

      Truthfully, this isn’t just about the church split, it came long before. I’m not sure why, it just is. But I’ve learned so very much from the silence. I think perhaps, what I’ve heard from Him would’ve been drowned out by the voices of my busyness otherwise. And I’m thankful. Thanks JoAnne. I pray for both us that God will fill us with all we need to fill the void, in His timing, for His purposes.

  4. Laura @ Pruning Princesses

    Confession: Sometimes I feel frustrated that friends feel “caught” up with me because they read my blog but I don’t know anything about them. I adore how God brought these issues around to his perspective for you. “They read my words too and they feel like they know me,” He said. “I am a man of sorrows.”
    Thank you for this.

    • Shelly Miller

      I knew it was God Laura, I couldn’t have thought that up on my own if I tried. I was focused on driving but my eyes were so blurry from the revelation I almost had to pull over. I’m thankful for the way He speaks to me like that.

  5. OutnumberedMom

    “He is often silent but never still in His love for us.” That is so lovely, so true. And when you wrote, “They read my words and feel like they know me, too” — it struck me so!
    Thanks for sharing your heart, and for visiting at my place today, too!

    • Shelly Miller

      So delighted you came over. I think as writers holding our art out for the world to see, we can all relate to what He said to me, can’t we?

  6. DeanneMoore

    These two they talk but not in the depths 🙂 (The one on the right is my precious Naomi.) But they do what is right for this time in their lives. They grab hold of each other’s hands and head toward the slide. It takes a friend to be brave enough to go down the big slide. The older we get maybe the less we take each other’s hands…but not you. You reach your hand out to those who read your life and maybe you don’t realize how much we need you to, to be brave before us, even at the cost of being know only by your words. BTW, I am hanging on the same rail.

    • Shelly Miller

      Your comments and emails make me tear up Dea. This was so beautiful, I read it several times. Of course, I feel like I say that every time. Love that little photo, so precious. I’m hanging over the rail with you, etching our names there so we’ll remember. Because we won’t stay there forever. And you’re great company btw.

      • DeanneMoore

        I jumped over here to read the comments and read your response to Elizabeth about your ten years of silence. You know I don’t blog. Well, I did this morning, kind of…I don’t know if you get this but wanted to share anyway. We are weird BTW. LOL http://meetyouinthemorning.blogspot.com/2013/03/silence.html

  7. HopefulLeigh

    This is right where I am, Shelly. Noticing the quietness of my life, the gaps in community, the sense that I am not well known here. I can’t understand any of it, nor is there direction on how to change it. In fact, I have the sense that there’s nothing else I can do. Yesterday I wondered if this is one more aspect of dependence on God, the dependence I claimed I wanted to learn when I moved to Nashville almost 3 years ago. There was a time in my life I had to fill up all the quiet with friends and activities and more, more, more. I reached a breaking point, re-calibrated and had achieved a better balance a couple of years before I moved here. I’ve always taken pride in my hospitality skills and ability to be a good friend. Yet none of it is really coming together, despite my efforts. It’s been a trying season since the fall, given the loss of my aunt, and I’ve let myself become more insular in order to mourn well. But in doing so, I’m more mindful of the friends who have dropped away and the lack of reciprocity. There are a few exceptions to the rule but it’s still so lacking and it makes me feel like I’m lacking. I don’t know. Reading this comforted me, knowing I’m not alone in this and just feeling encouraged by what you’re learning.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think I need to write you an email. But everything you’ve said here, I feel it too Leigh. I’m not sure what the answer is either, except that I keep pressing into God about it and he answers, just not in the way I hope he will. Loneliness has been the classroom for deepening intimacy with Christ.

  8. Elizabeth

    Shelly this sings a sweet mournful song to my insides. Someone wisely told me recently to be careful of hiding when I am sad. Yes I do. But I hide in His embrace, a sheltering place. But the delicate dance of staying too long there. It is a bit lonely but oh so restorative. I know him well from my sadnesses and pain. Yet He has ordained and formed and called up the people of fellowship, on whom I can lean and trust. Discerning when, whom and how is at times a holy mystery. Grateful for this. You highlight his sufficiency. Love you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know you get this and truthfully for me, it’s been going on much longer than three months. More like almost ten years. Sort of like Madeline L’Engle’s ten years of silence. I told H, perhaps this is what God wants me to write about.

  9. Jody Collins

    Shelly, this one gave me chills………….

    • Shelly Miller

      Wow Jody, must be God saying something there.

  10. Margaret Feinberg

    Love the pictures of the birds on a wire, Shelly!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks sweet Margaret. They are resting on the ropes of a sail boat that I posted on today’s blog post about friendship.

  11. laura boggess

    It was Hemingway, I think, who said, “The writing life, at its best, is a lonely life.” Sometimes I think my online friends know me deeper because it’s easier to share my deeper side when I sit and ponder words. But I understand how it is to miss the laughter that rings out over a cup of coffee. Friends who know us in flesh and in the deeper places of our hearts are a true gift.

    And you are reminding me to call a girlfriend for a cuppa. Hugs to you, sweet friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      Hemingway intrigues me, and I don’t particularly like the way he writes. And I agree with you Laura, I think my online friends may know me more intimately than friends in my own community. Well, I know that to be true. When I meet them for the first time in real life, there isn’t any awkwardness because we already know each other so well. I have a girlfriend visiting this week, couldn’t be more timely for me.

  12. Rebekah


    “They read my words too and they feel like they know me,” He said. “I am a man of sorrows.”

    You got me here! Right in the heart! Thank you for your vulnerability in your loneliness. I feel it too.
    Over from SDG and have love how you have shared also at (ink)ed!

    • Shelly Miller

      Rebekah, its been fun getting to know you at (ink)ed. Thanks for sharing a bit of your heart here.

  13. Lyli Dunbar

    When I feel misunderstood, I try to remember that He understands….. He so understands….

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank God for that Lyli!

  14. smoothstones

    Thought-provoking post! I think it works the opposite way sometimes, too. Sometimes I feel like the people who take the time to read me know me very best. And I definitely feel like I know God, in part, from reading His Word.

    • Shelly Miller

      I agree with you Brandee, I know you are right.

  15. Amber

    Shelly, I praise God for these words, as I read your post tonight and it stuck straight through my heart (as with many others, I see):

    “They read my words too and they feel like they know me,” He said. “I am a man of sorrows.”

    I bent over the rail of my loneliness, the altar strewn with questions beginning “why”. And He answers each one the same way. “I know you.”

    Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanking God with you for the way His words met you when you clicked over.

  16. Bethany

    An audience of one. So true.

    “I bent over the rail of my loneliness…”
    Lovely, lovely writing.

    • Shelly Miller

      Bethany, what a treat to have you visit. Thanks for leaving a comment.

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