I'm not that good at names. So you would think it would be a disaster, me trying to connect with a room of 30-80 people on a weekly basis at Pilgrim Dinners, many of them new arrivals each week.
The surprise for me was how many names I actually could remember (and affix to the correct faces -- also potentially a problem for me). It turns out it is a lot easier to remember names when they are exotic and foreign and interesting. I'd never known people called Frederica, or Fabio, or Ainhe, or Irma, before.
Around the second or third time our famed Angry Italian Atheists attended a dinner (some of you have heard our fond memories of them), I welcomed one of them by name. A surprised smile softened her usually stony face. "You remembered my name!" she exclaimed.
We would never have expected it when they first showed up, but these guys ended up attending our dinners for four months. I really, really missed them when they left our community. Honestly, I still miss them. I can't be sure, but maybe, just maybe, the tiny kindness of remembering her name was a turning point in our interactions.
At one of our prayer days we printed out the names of hundreds of dinner guests who signed up for email updates. Sitting there and scanning over column after column in tiny print of beautiful, quirky names from everywhere, I was filled with love and compassion for these people - irretrievably made in God's image - who I dined with, who heard the gospel, who are still somewhere in this world, having slung on a backpack and walked out of my life.
So if I see you again, please forgive me if I don't remember your name. I'm so glad I serve a God who knows you down to every negligible detail, like the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7).
I hope to dine with you again, at a much more wonderful feast than the one we shared at the Huonville Library. I guess we'll have new names (Revelation 2:17), and bodies that don't get tired and cold from picking fruit in changeable weather.
In the meantime, I trust you to the care of the one who is familiar with all our ways, whose presence we - blessedly - cannot flee (Psalm 139), though we traverse the wide world.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.