I remember it with the poignancy of yesterday. I’m fiddling with the latch on my green Care Bears lunchbox, when Mrs. Nagel gently encourages me to take a step to the left. It seems I’m the juxtapose member of an otherwise pencil-straight line of kindergartners.
I’m missing my mom like it’s nobody’s business, and this whole mess of leaving her for approximately 3.5 hours a day is just about more than my five-year-old heart can take. I have no idea how I’ll ever get married and leave the house. But I leave that thought alone and just try to swallow the tears that rise every time I think of her throughout the long half-days in the kindergarten classroom.
The colossal correction from Mrs. Nagel triggers the tears again, and I gulp hard, staring at the Care Bears and the rainbow on my lunch box. That’s when I hear the word. “Stacey,” she says it gently, and somewhere behind the words, I hear all the love in the world, and something about her voice reminds me of my mom. But it doesn’t bring tears this time. I look right into her eyes, and I see a kind of compassion that wraps me comfort.
When she says my name, I know she sees me. I know she sees my heart, and she’s telling me it’s alright. It’s all going to be ok. We’re going to get through this, and she’s going to walk with me.
“No tears now,” she softly says, touching my arm tenderly.
I nod. I want to tell her I’m trying not to cry, that we’re on the same page, that I’m on board, and that we’ll get there. Instead I just nod my little head and clench my lunchbox handle with two hands, eyes straight ahead. I’ve got this. I’ve got this standing in line thing, and this getting on the bus thing, and this leaving Mom thing. We’re gonna make it.
We did make it. Mrs. Nagel and I soared through kindergarten together, and by the end of the year, the tears were a rarity. Her kindness and gentleness walked me through the hard transition.
This is the memory that comes to mind when I read the account of Mary, searching for the body of Jesus at the tomb. Her grief is deeper than that of a kindergartner missing her mom, but it is grief, nonetheless. She has come to anoint the body of Jesus with oil, and something about the act feels like a comfort to her. She has lost him, but she focuses on what she can now do for him in his death.
She arrives at the tomb to discover the body is gone. Double grief. Not only is she grieved over his death, she’s now distraught over the fact that someone has taken his body. It’s disturbing. It’s disheartening. It’s terrible. Someone is going to rob her of the final consolation of at least giving him a proper burial.
That’s when it happens. A gardener comes to the tomb beside her. She glances at him, then begs him to tell her where they might have put the body. Her mind is racing, and her eyes are blinded to the reality that this is no gardener; this is the very Lord she vehemently seeks.
She doesn’t know it’s him until he says it. He says her name, “Mary.”
I imagine the tone. It’s direct, yet filled with compassion. It’s an assertion that he sees her. He sees her heart and her desperation. It’s an assertion that good things are coming. Surely, he knows the awe that will fall upon her when she recognizes him. Surely, this brings him joy, and there’s anticipation in the proclamation of her name.
She recognizes him the moment he says her name. She responds, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).* And from that moment, everything changes. The redemption of humankind is at hand. His body was not stolen; he is alive!
The scene reminds me of Mrs. Nagel’s gentle proclamation of my name – of the day she saw into my heart and reminded me we’d get through it. It also stirs in me a deep longing for the day when I stand before the throne of God and hear Jesus speak my name. It reminds me of the way he drew me to himself as a young girl. It reminds me that just as he knew Mary by name, he knows my name. He is watching, waiting, and walking with me through this season.
Jesus knows your name too. Imagine the day he looks into your eyes and speaks your name. The day will come for each one of us. Let’s live with prepared hearts, waiting, longing, and anticipating the day he calls our names.