“The doctor will just take this itty-bitty part,” my finger taps my daughter’s birthmark. I wear an intentional mask of cheerful confidence. “It won’t take long and it will be all over,” I say with a nod of assurance.
My six-year-old Heidi’s eyes are fixed, worried on that brown blotch.
Her outstretched arm holds still while I trace circles on her forearm around the dark splotch. She watches solemnly, her forehead puckers, her shiny eyes darken. I bend my eyes to within inches of hers, willing hers to mine, away from the stain on her arm.
“Will you still know me?” she whispers.
“Of course, I will,” I say pretending my heart isn’t melted butter. My blue eyes are level with her round dark ones.
Oh child, will I still know you? I will know you in a crowd of a thousand. I will spot you and call you mine. I will know you if you become an annoying adolescent with pink hair and black lipstick. I will know you when my hair is gray and my shoulders bend like a capital letter C. I will know you when my eyes grow dim and my mind fogs. My heart will jump at the sound of your voice. You will still be my sunshine when my days become dark.
I will know you.
“But if he takes my bookmarker,” she begins and her lip quivers. She looks up. Her clear blue eyes fill. “Who am I?”
Her “bookmarker,” that defining stamp born from the womb, always part of my Heidi, is now a foreboding pre-cancerous offense. It looks like a little mud puddle splashed against the inside white of her arm. The doctor wants it removed. She is scheduled for surgery in an hour.
Her questions crack into raw places in my heart and into my psyche.
In the mind of my little girl, the big questions of identity are condensed into one tiny birthmark, a symbol of her uniqueness, an assurance each morning that she indeed is Heidi, the joy of our lives. Her bookmarker anchors her place in an enormous universe.
Her dad and I walk down the hall next to the rolling metal bed that hugs our girl. She seems small against the white. An entourage of medical personnel walks with us. I squeeze the small hand in mine, not wanting to let go. In front of doors that will soon swallow our daughter, we lean over her and pray.
Then we stand tall, back away and wreath our faces in smiles. We wave her on her way as though she is about to go outside to play.
In my mind it is much more complicated. Her question reverberates like an echo in the canyon of my space. Will You still know me Lord, when they are all grown? Will You know me when my job is stripped, when I fail or become replaceable? Will You remember me after what I consider to be my very essence is gone? When the surgery of life has recut and reshaped me, will my being still matter? Will you know me?
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me,” David the Psalmist’s words whisper into my silent thoughts (Psalm 139:1).
I consider my markers. How readily I look to peripherals, accomplishments, and praise from others to establish my place in this sphere, to give name to my identity. What bookmarks me in my eyes is far different from the person God sees. He looks deep into my very core and loves the child He created.
“You know when I sit down and when I rise up….and are intimately acquainted with all my ways,” (Psalm 139: 2-3).
Sitting in a cold waiting room of life, I am humbled by God’s knowing.
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb,” (Psalm 139:13).
Set apart, cared for and loved, this is the ultimate mark of the believer. To know Christ and be known of Him is the pinnacle of existence. It is the identity for which we long.
In a tender proclamation of devotion, the Lord spoke to His people Israel saying, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” (Isaiah 49:16).
I stretch out my own arms in front of me. They are smooth and pale. I uncurl my fists, hold up my palms and close my eyes envisioning my name inscribed on giant nail scarred hands.
Jesus wrote my name in the pages of eternity. He inscribed me on hands wounded by the weight of the sin of humankind. I am bookmarked chosen.
When Heidi comes back, a white bandage covers what used to be a brown birthmark. Her eyes are open, searching for me.
I lean down, kiss her forehead and whisper, “I know you.”