We are lifting the tea bags heavy with Earl Grey loose leaf tea, setting them on the saucer between us, liquid spooling around them. I ask her if it ever stops—the assumption of being known. “You know,” she says, her brown eyes lower, “I don’t know if it ever does. Or if it should. Jesus hid,” she says. She lifts her mug to take a sip, pursing her lips and blowing into the cup, the tea swirls and slows. I wait for her to finish.
“I don’t know if we’re meant to hide when we’re in public,” she says, “I think there are times for hiding and those need to be intentional. But don’t you think that Jesus felt everyone knew Him when even His disciples were wrong? Peter!” She laughs. “The most right he ever was was when he said, ‘To whom else would we go?’ No. I think we are meant to be only ever partially known. I think Jesus knew we wouldn’t have the treasure of being truly known outside of heaven.”
“I think it was CS Lewis,” I say to her, “who said the only place outside of heaven where we can be safe from the dangers of love is hell.” Now I’m the one blowing whirlpools of cool air into my tea.
“I wonder the same thing goes for being safe from being truly known,” she says. “I wonder if all the dangers that come from being partially known, people’s assumptions about us, if those are only gone in Heaven—or hell. In heaven or hell we know who you are. You’re either saved or unsaved. It’s across the board; no differentiation.”
“This is what makes us all such fools here on earth,” I say. “It’s that we are so set on hierarchies and systems and compartmentalizing and celebrity. We can’t keep ourselves from categorizing the whole world from blue collars to white collars to blue-blood to white trash—we can’t keep our grimy fists off the identities of everyone else. Jesus knew though.” I set my tea down and flip the pages in my bible til it lands on Luke 23, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
“He knew we were a bunch of fools, all laid out, splayed out, played out fools. Bare and ignorant, all of us. He leveled it for us right there. Forgive them, Father, the whole lot of ‘em.”
We shake our heads and laugh. I catch her eye and we both glance down quickly. To know a person is a difficult thing indeed. We hide, even in public places, across steaming cups of Earl Grey tea in busy coffee shops where tables are confessionals and the table between us is flat and equal.