I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. –John 14:10
At the humble, nativity setting, under the stars that first Christmas night, the poor shepherds became acquainted with the God the Father’s remarkable gift of his son, the baby Jesus. From the spectacular, heralding host of angels to the cooing baby in the manger, they were the first to receive God’s acquainting grace. One can imagine the shepherds returning from their fields as often possible and getting to know the baby Jesus in his first two years in Bethlehem.
If you are over 40, you may remember the old song sung by Julie Andrews. The lyrics were “Getting to know you, getting to know more about you . . .” The idea of “getting to know you” in social psychology is called the acquaintance process. The core idea is that complete strangers, when remaining in close proximity and frequent contact with one another, have ample opportunity to become well acquainted. Initially strangers, under conditions of opportunity and motivation various relationships among persons emerge. This is exactly true of how I met may wife, Irene, as college students at Asbury College (now Asbury University). I worked at creating multiple opportunities throughout each day to be with her (proximity and contact). Meeting her after class, walking he to her next class, eating together in the college dining hall, going to church together, and so on.
The key concepts in the acquaintance process are opportunity and motivation for proximity and frequency of contact based on attraction. So I was attracted and hoped it was reciprocal. We were in the personal zone of each other day by day as our acquaintance deepened from friends in to marriage. Now the journey continues into a celebration in a few weeks of forty-eight years of mutual love and admiration with two beautiful children and grandchildren. Thanks be to God!
Here’s the simple beauty of the acquaintance process. It can be filled with God’s grace. When applied to the social/spiritual zones of our lives, it’s about a growing intimacy with God and his “acquainting grace.” Such grace is given and received. Our social soul grows in Christ nourished by the company of others. Others become God’s means of pouring grace into our lives. In marriage and the company of close friends, the love of others may bring us into the presence of God in whom we grow in acquaintance and intimacy (holiness) with him. However, that increasing intimacy is not guaranteed, but contingent on his constant acquainting grace and our continuous response of obedient faith.