I have terrible facial recognition.
Like most college students, my first year of college was spent getting to know every single person who lived with and around me. I went far enough away to school to know no one when I got there. Eventually I belonged to a group of people, friends and acquaintances who spent free time together, greeted each other on campus, and went to parties together. Some lived in the apartment building I did; others were friends of friends.
There was this one guy, the roommate of a friend’s friend, who was in the group with us. One day, as I stuck out my hand at a party to introduce myself, he looked me straight in the eye and said, exasperated, “Why do you keep introducing yourself to me? We’ve met three times already. Stop it.” Then he waved me away and I never talked to him again. I felt like such a jerk for making him feel unimportant, indistinct.
It’s embarrassing, not recognizing someone you’ve already met. I sneak peeks at people’s faces, wondering if I know them. If a person looks familiar, the chances that I’ve met them are about the same as if I haven’t met them. I’m better with names.
Facebook is great for recalling people from our pasts, but would I recognize someone who I knew twenty years ago if I met them today? Only if they look like the picture of them I have in my mind. Thank goodness high school reunions only come up every ten years. Woe to the person whom I’ve seen pictures of but not met in real life.
The Bible mentions hundreds of people by name, some many times, some only once or twice. It’s easy to overlook a person who is mentioned in the Bible’s pages, never having heard their ancient names before. For most of them, we don’t have the luxury of portraits, all artists’ renderings, to identify them. For me, that’s not a problem.
It’s not a problem for God, either. He knows each of us intimately – each detail of our faces is known to him. Even if we are unrecognizable, or constantly overshadowed, or overlooked in the world, we matter to God. Each of us has been created and placed exactly where we are for a particular purpose.
In the Bible, we read about how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Moses parted a sea to rescue a whole nation. Peter walked on water to show his faith. Jesus died and rose again to save us all.
Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t a good example of an ordinary human being. But to Jesus’ family and community, he was. He was a son, a brother, a kid in the neighborhood. He was a teacher. But he was all-important to God.
Just like each of us is, the faceless and nameless that makes up the masses. Just like each one who came before us. Just like that guy in college who I don’t remember. Each of our faces is recognized by God. Each of us is an important piece of his plan. Our lives, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, fit perfectly. The plan isn’t complete without every single one of us. When we see ourselves or others as being unworthy of mention or attention, God reminds us that he loves each of us the same, that each person is as important to him as our own loved ones are to us.
God reminds me that even if I don’t know a face, he does. And he knows mine, too. We are all equally known, equally important to him.
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)