Your fingers hold tight to the pebble you picked up in the most important moment of the life you just left. They say you can’t take anything with you, but no one ever seems to remember the rock. Bubbling with excitement, you scan the crowd and take it all in—you’d never imagined so many different shades of beauty and the mostly exotic rhythms of language swirling about you now. Grins everywhere. This is Christ’s tribe, anticipating the great billows of music which begin the ceremony. You turn your pebble over and examine its shape, color, markings, so foreign all those years ago, now as familiar as your favorite song. Jesus, who had met Peter on the beach with breakfast and forgiveness millennia before, met you there, too. He asked for your heart and gave you this smooth stone to put in your pocket.
You nudge the girl next to you and point to the porous black lump clasped in her hand. Despite the old language barrier, you somehow understand that the Lord had given her a lava rock when she was just thirteen, the first believer on her island (and later killed when she took her good news to a rival people nearby). She pauses, looks around, and points out a jubilant face across the way. The two girls wink and wave at each other, holding their pebbles high in the air. “That’s the daughter of the man who speared me,” she smiles through one of her last tears left. You nod, wondering how you’ll ever get used to the state of constant amazement at the goodness of the King.
Lights dim, a hush settles over everyone, and then the music swells. Oh, the music—reverberations of every purely happy memory you’ve got and a million more. Then the Lamb takes the stage, and heaven roars. What’s that in His eyes? You try to identify it. Fierce pride, overwhelming joy, the deepest relief. He lets out a rolling laugh which tingles down to your toes. You’re not quite sure what the rest of forever entails, but you suspect it’s going to keep taking your breath away if He has anything to do with it (and of course He does).
Jesus sits down and tells a story, one I don’t have the language to do justice to here, about the sacredness of names and how one thing becomes another as soon as the word leaves His mouth. He projects a replay of creation, names of stars flying into the dark, blazing bright and new. Worlds spoken, souls renamed to become who they were—Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter. (Each grinning in turn as the people around nudge them affectionately.) And in that thread, every one of you was given a truer, deeper, better name when you were handed your rock. You might have seen inklings of it come to light, but now the wait is over. It’s time for the re-creation to begin, here on the cusp of your own personal Genesis week.
The first to be called up is a young man with olive skin and golden limestone in his palm. He offers it to Jesus, who beams while taking him into a big bear hug, whispering something into his ear. When the young man steps back, the limestone has turned a pure and penetrating white, a name written on it visible only to his eyes. You thought his smile couldn’t possibly be any broader, but somehow he manages. He hugs Jesus again, presses their foreheads together briefly, and returns to his seat.
New names. New beginnings. One after another for thousands of stories, each waiting to be told in the eternity ahead. The fearful girl shamed by her family is now Strength and Honor. The perfectionist becomes Grace. The outcast transforms into Belonging. The man who struggled with depression for decades answers to Joy of the Lord. Purpose and healing are pressed into the words whispered, and the tone of celebration builds. On and on it goes, redemption remaking each stone and heart.
When it’s finally your turn, you approach the Rescuer, finding encouraging squeezes along the way. Despite the enormity of the crowd, the stage feels quiet, intimate. This encounter is a safe space. You sense no self-consciousness as you move toward that beaming face. With a fond farewell, you relinquish everything you used to be in the small pebble from the beach. As you’re wrapped up in that strange and wonderful embrace, words tuck themselves into your ear, ones you’ll cling to as you start this new journey further up and further in. You gaze down at the gleaming white rock and read the name that staggers your soul with its goodness. Of course it was this. What else could it have possibly been? You were never yourself before this moment. Throwing your thanks upon the face of Jesus with kisses of gratitude, you return to your seat and this new way of being. The truer, deeper, better you has come alive.
Welcome to the world. We’ve been waiting for you.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”