The reason why Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” became a smash hit this past year is no mystery. It’s an extremely cathartic song. The lyrics, composed by the talented Belgian-Australian artist, are a mix of bitter words and wistful memories. The instrumentals are a light and steady percussion and then--boom. The refrain. Whether you were in the throes of a rocky break-up or were just keying into distant memories of a relationship’s demise, you may have found yourself joining in with the band to that highly emotional, “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know!”
Or. Or you may have read the lyrics and realized that these are the same words that God will never say.
This thought visited upon me one night while driving. Unable to escape Gotye no matter how many times I turned the radio dial, I welcomed the song after a series of difficult conversations with co-workers and friends. I felt good and right and completely entitled to write off all the distress. And then God pressed on my heart as I held the steering wheel, “But you are still known to me.”
In that moment, I felt meek--a feeling that is largely foreign to a bold gal like myself. A feeling that is mostly absent from Gotye’s song. I felt meek and small and held by a God to whom I had not surrendered so many burdens and tenuous relationships. Instead I had marched assuredly along, living by my wits, relying on my own strength, subconsciously “addicted to a certain kind of sadness” as Gotye writes.
But God in His tenderness plucked the strings of my own heart’s instrument and sang, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer 1:5). He knew me; He was involved in my life before I was consciously involved with Him.
And though I turn against Him, over and over, like Gotye’s frenemy, God reminds me in no uncertain terms that He will forgive me; that He won’t even remember my offenses! (Heb. 8:12)
God is such a matchless friend.
Still I utter flip prayers and feeble worship, telling the Lord in so many words that I barely care to know Him, “And I don't even need your love.” Yet, He does not forsake me. He knows me, my thoughts, my attitudes. He knows how sharply He needs to drive His word into my hardened heart--so sharply that even my soul and spirit are separated from each other (Heb. 4:12).
I need to know, though, what if? What if this relationship becomes too heavy for me? What if the Lord ask too much of me? Can I run? Can I change my number? Can I escape His call?
God answers, once again, that He has known me. He knows the bleary hour when I get out of bed. He sees the dull glow of my laptop keeping me awake at night. He knows my habits, the thoughts in my head. (Psalm 139).
God’s got my number. I cannot be unlisted from Him. I cannot put Him on privacy restrictions from my status updates. I cannot successfully block Him and report Him as spam in my inbox.
All of my usual defenses become white flags of surrender to God, omnipotent God, from whom even the darkness cannot hide (Ps 139:12).
My earthly relationships will fade and fail me. I can erase every trace of them, take down the pictures and throw away the souvenirs.
But not God.
The very manner in which He created humanity shows His desire to be close to us, to keep us hemmed in within a splendid garden. It was not God’s desire that we would be banished from this garden; He never intended for a break-up when we would clear out and find somewhere else to crash.
God’s love is diametrically opposed to the kind that says we, His beloved, are just people He used to know. He created us in love and has given us the free will to drive fast on country roads in the dark, windows down, crying out along with the refrain of a rock song by an artist we’ve never met.
As the song ends, perhaps we feel both the relief and the emptiness that follow a catharsis. We are aware that we are alone, with no musical accompaniment.
One solid chord rings out:
“And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).