O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
The first time I took a personality test was in college. It was the Meyers-Briggs, a well-researched measuring tool that groups respondents into sixteen personality types based on their answers to ninety-four questions. The results of my test were clear, but how I felt about them was less clear. While I loved gaining insight into my personality, I was a little deflated to learn how predictable I was. How could a set of unremarkable questions so easily categorize me? My perception of my own uniqueness--my “specialness”--felt a little dented.
Personality tests operate on the premise that behaviors and preferences can be generalized. They find order in what we perceive to be random combinations of preferences and judgments. And they challenge our treasured belief that we are complex creatures. We humans like to think that we are incomprehensible, complex, and mysterious. But we’re not.
We are knowable. Completely.
But not by a personality test or by another person. Other people can gain insight into our strengths and weaknesses, our virtues and our vices by means of observation, but they can’t know us fully. One reason this is true is because we are masters at concealment, even from those we love and trust. We excel at showing our finer qualities while carefully tucking away our shortcomings. And because other people have a limited interest in plumbing the depths of our character, we can usually get away with it. “Man looks on the outward appearance,” and is content to do so, being so typically intent on his own hidden issues that he has little time to concern himself with the hidden issues of his neighbor.
Far more concerning is that we do not and cannot fully know ourselves. The psalmist asks, “Who can discern his [own] errors?” (Psalm 19:12) The prophet Jeremiah warns that our hearts are characterized above all else by an internal, pervasive treachery that thwarts self-knowledge: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
My deceitful heart is happy to perpetuate the lie that my sin is not sin, or that my sin is not my fault, or that my sin is not known all the days of my life. Thank God, he allows no such thing. He graciously holds up the mirror of his Word, and my heart is laid bare. I am reminded that I am fully knowable and fully known.
He knows me fully--every thought, every intention, every perception, every judgment, and every response to the world around me--no personality test required. Even the temptations I face are so known to him that he calls them “common to man.” Apprehending with complete accuracy the best and the worst of me, he is neither impressed nor horrified. He accepts me as I am because of Christ. Nothing is hidden before the one who formed my inmost being, and, because I am fully known, I am fully free to love him in return.
Out of this love, I learn to trade the myth of human incomprehensibility for the mercy of human knowability. I learn to trust the expertise of God.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Ask God to show you where your heart has lied to you. What sin have you justified, minimized, or concealed?
- What person in your life is difficult to understand? Ask God to grant you patience and the ability to trust that he knows both you and that person fully.
- Thank God that he knows you completely and, because of Christ, loves you still.
Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her fifteen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds and None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing).