It wasn’t long ago that a Pastor in our community lost his son in a tragic accident. Most of the community grieved with his family. The local news reported on it, and thousands gathered to pay their respects and show support to this wonderful family in such a dark time. We all knew his name, we knew how he died, and we hurt with them.
It’s been hard for me this week to get my mind wrapped around the difference between this and what’s happening in Haiti. Here we were able to celebrate the life of a young man who was taken so young. There was a gathering of lots of people, and his body was laid to rest in a grave with a tombstone marking his life with his name.
In Haiti the bodies are being bulldozed into trucks and dumped into a pit on the edge of town. It’s being reported that the operation is so haphazard that there are still bodies laying on the ground outside the pits. No one has even gotten around to pushing them into the hole, let alone covering them up. There is no paperwork confirming their identities, no ability to notify next of kin, there isn’t even a marker or tombstone listing their names. They’re anonymous. They’ve disappeared. No record that they ever existed let alone died.
Anderson Cooper on CNN expressed his frustration when he said “everyone of their pain deserves to be known”. But when there are over 150,000 of them dead, our minds start to overload. It’s a number that’s impossible to grasp. It’s a number that is physically impossible for them to be mourned individually, for their lives to be celebrated, for their names to be known or even spoken out loud.
It seems pretty unfair, and unjust on the surface, and I suppose if this were the end of the movie and the credits were rolling an argument could be made. But that’s just not true. Every child that died, they had a name. They had a life that was full of ups and downs and joy and sorrow and family and laughter and they were important and unique and as Anderson Cooper says, “every one of their pain deserves to be known”.
John 10 tells us that Jesus knows us each individually and that He calls us by name. More, it seems to indicate that He’s calling them by name inviting them to leave the pen. An amazing metaphor of how it is when we step from this life to the next, with our shepherd, our Jesus, calling you and I individually by name. Maybe on this side of heaven, they’re anonymous, but in an instant their names were being called, individually, specifically, and mercifully.
In Revelation 2:17 there is this amazing statement from Jesus to those that overcome. He said that I will give you a new name, and more than that, He will write it on a white stone. Almost as if saying, that thing you went through, the grief and the pain is over now. The name that’s associated with the guilt, shame and suffering of earth is washed away. There may not be a tombstone this side of heaven with their names carved on it, but there is a white stone on the other side that has their name, a new name given to them each individually by Jesus Himself and written by the same Hand of God that created the heavens and the earth.
This isn’t cliché and it’s not just something to say to make me and you feel better. But one day Jesus, who knows me by name, the most personal part of who I am. The thing that identifies me and the synopsis of who I am. He’s going to calls us by name individually, and then He’s going to give me a new name. I’m real glad about that because after 38 years I’ve done lots of stuff that has harmed my name and reputation. If you died in rubble and had your body dumped in a pit, I’m thinking a new name is a great place to start leaving that behind.
U2 released a song about a place where the streets have no name. I’m not sure if the streets in Heaven have names, but I know that everyone of the children in Haiti that died, everyone of our brothers and sisters in Christ that lost their lives, they have new names, names that are recorded on a white stone, names that signal the hurt and the pain is gone.
Their pain IS known. Every last single one of them.
Please continue to pray for and support the work going on in Haiti. There are still those on this side whose suffering continues. We’re committed to this for the long haul and need your help. http://www.conduitmission.org