Do you ever have those days when you feel like with the right make-up you could totally be one of the zombies on The Walking Dead? You know, those days when your brain is obviously infected by something other than the intelligence virus? When you wonder when your “walking around” sense walked off and left you stranded and alone?
This past weekend I had to make the inevitable trip to Wal-Mart- not one of my favorite chores. As I was about to be called to pick up my prescription, I noticed a gentleman turning the corner. I recognized him, but it was one of those times when faces, names, and associated places just were not coming together in my feeble early-morning brain.
Back a few years ago, when I began serving as a principal in Christian school ministries, one of my priorities was learning the names of all the students in the schools where I served. I took the time to stand at the door every morning to greet them as they arrived, visited in classrooms, memorized class lists, and stood in halls between classes. It was important to me to know the kids, and it made them feel a little important, too. I tried to carry this habit over when I served on a church staff, but it was a little harder, since I would only see folks at church (at best) a couple of times each week. Plus, it was about the time I moved from Christian school to church staff that I started to get really old and forgetful. It just got hard to remember names!
Being in positions where lots of people are looking at you, you run into this situation sometimes- where you encounter someone in a different environment than what you associate them, and struggle with putting the pieces together. You learn to kind of cope with those momentary lapses of memory in ways that are hopefully gracious and put people at ease rather than making them uncomfortable. (When you also have a foot-shaped mouth, as do I, this type of coping mechanism is pretty important.)
Many times, depending on the circumstances, I just admit it when my brain is experiencing the blue screen of forgetfulness. But Saturday morning in Wal-Mart the alarm in my head was going off like crazy. This is the alarm that tells me not to admit my memory loss, but just act like I knew exactly who the person is, and hope that they don’t notice. Well, it just took a few seconds after our initial greeting that I did remember exactly who this gentleman is; he is someone that I really should have been able to place immediately, because he has a very important position where I work. Plus, he seems to be a very nice and genuine man which, in my book, is much more important than how big your office is! Plus, he had just come around last week to our office for us to meet him (this was a big deal), and he left a very good impression with me. Having had the privilege in all my goings-around to meet some important people, I will say that it takes more than “being important” to impress me. But he did, and that makes him memorable.
I know what it feels like to be forgotten, to be overlooked, so I guess that is what makes me feel so awful when I am the one who forgets. In fact, I think I feel worse to forget someone than to be forgotten by someone.
As I went off to my next errand of the morning, I was reminded of the passage of Scripture in John 10, when Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
The people Jesus spoke these words to that day were very important people in the Temple. They were very religious, though perhaps, on some level, they knew their hearts harbored wickedness. They didn’t want to be known, but wanted to cover over what was on the inside with what seemed to be strict adherence to the Law as they taught it. Their self-generated righteousness was all on the outside for other people to see, but such an intimate encounter with the true Messiah upset their whole paradigm for life. And they certainly wouldn’t have liked to be compared to sheep!
For me, though, there is nothing more comforting than being known and being held by Christ. Those three words Christ spoke, “I know them,” give me such a feeling of connection to Him. To be known by Christ, to know that His hands are holding onto me, to know that His Father’s hands are holding on to me! Think of what security there is in the truth of that statement. He won’t ever forget us. He won’t ever “misplace” us. He won’t ever let us go. There is never a corner we can turn where He will not recognize us. He knows us intimately- inside and out, our good and our bad- and chooses to hold us in His hands with great tenderness, loving-kindness and mercy.