“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. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”
For Valentine’s Day this year, I received a little orange gnome (of course?) from the students in my ESL class. He was holding a Valentine when I got him, but he now stands alone on the desk in my office. I decided he was not going to be a holiday gnome, but to serve as a reminder of how intimately I am known by God.
If that seems odd or like a stretch, it probably is, but here’s why. One year, when I was at camp, I lived in a dorm full of girls who didn’t know each other. Early in the session, my residence hall hosted a “Gnome Your Neighbors” event, where you could come together to decorate little ceramic gnomes that would serve as your doorstop for the year. It was a chance to meet your neighbors over a small shared labor, because you were supposed to make it represent a little bit of who you were. In the end, the gnomes were adorned with sports, teams, country flags, music, different careers, etc. We each presented our gnome to the group, and as silly as the whole the activity was, it was one of the first opportunities we had to get to know each other’s names, stories, and dreams for the future. That activity sparked many friendships that have turned into the lifelong sort.
Since then, I have had an affection for the tacky little guys (I have a gnome Christmas tree ornament and coffee mug, among other kitschy items). They remind me of one of the best seasons of my life, when a group of people learned to truly care for each other. We looked out for each other, both emotionally and spiritually. Gnomes still remind me that the smallest and/or most awkward things, including painting a gnome at an event by yourself, can be used to bring people together as they grow in Christ. They remind me that it is important to us as humans to be known and to know that we are.
I was reminded this Valentine’s Day of that time, both because my ESL class cares so well for each other (You should have seen all the food! And cake! And gifts! And candy!) and because a little orange gnome made an appearance at our party. My prayer for you this year is that you see the small ways that God shows you that you are deeply known and loved, even if with gnomes.