The Names I’ve Forgotten

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” – Revelation 3:5

The other night during dinner, we somehow wandered to the topic of old friends. We were discussing friends we had in common and those with whom we had lost touch. At one point in our conversation, the name of my friend Justin came up, and I was again, almost inexplicably, brought to tears. I have written of my profound sadness concerning Justin previously here. What caused me to despair this time is that, from then (the day that I wrote the above-linked article) until now, I have hardly thought of Justin. You see, it is as if I had forgotten his name. One of the great tragedies of Justin’s time on this earth is the reality that so many people, including me, were all too willing to forget his name.

I was not ready for what occurred to me next. As tears rolled down my face, I began to remember all of the names of those who I have known and loved whose names I have, for all intents and purposes, forgotten: friends like Kevin and Justin; grandparents like Walter, Jean, Lottie-Gene, and Paul; and my father-in-law, Ted. In my sin, I even tend to forget the name of my own father, Charles Leonard Keith. My memory is weak, and my will weaker.

These people were, at one time or another, everything to me. In the darkness of my sin, I cannot even muster the energy or integrity to remember their names as I walk through this day-to-day life. For a brief moment of time, the guilt that this sudden realization produced in me was quite overwhelming. How could I forget about my friends, my grandparents, or my father even for a time? I lose sight because I am usually too concerned with myself to consider others. In a perverse twist of irony, this whole exercise of trying to remember those who have gone before me was beginning to turn into my personal pity party regarding my weakness.

Then I remembered something which we all lose track of all too quickly. The legacy of those who have gone before us is not defined by our memory of them. Rather, it is established in Christ’s memory. If they have died in Him, He has placed their names in His book of life, and He will never forget them. What is more, He promises He will confess their names before the Father and before His angels. Here is the sure sign and the sure hope of those that are in Christ.

I like to try to make most things about me; I suspect you are the same. Life seems easier and appears to us to be more just when we find something over which we can take the blame. In an odd sort of way, it is almost harder to express that my memory of my father’s name matters so much less than Christ’s memory of his name. But, my hope in meeting my earthly father some day in paradise will only be fulfilled because Christ has remembered his name and placed it in His book of life, not because I have or have not diligently guarded his memory and legacy.

What a glorious Savior we have! He knows our every weakness and fulfills our every need. He fills the holes of our empty lives with purpose through the redemption He has showered upon us through His atoning death and life-giving resurrection. He has made war against the powers of sin, death, and the devil and has become victorious for us. He takes our flawed memories and replaces our memorial weakness with His unfailing promise, “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

In the future, I will probably continue to fret when I realize again that I have once more forgotten the names of those who have gone before me. But next time, the words of our Lord will come more freely to my lips: “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Praise be to God that the confession made to the Father on my behalf, or on behalf of any of my loved ones, will not rely on my memory but on Christ’s!