When I was 15, I went to Europe on a tour with a student group of high school and college students. We started in England, jumped over to France and made our way through Belgium, the Netherlands Austria, Germany and ended in Italy. It was a great experience. However I had an experience in Paris, one early morning, that changed my view of the world and my place in it.
Some background first. By the time I was 15 I knew that there had to be a Creator. Life was just too full of beauty and wonder to be formed by chance. I also, perhaps because I did not feel worthy, believed that this Creator was too vast, too busy to actually care about me personally. Visiting cathedrals in England and France had not helped changed that viewpoint.
One early morning in Paris, Steve, a college student who was my roommate, and I decided to go to the market and buy some bread and cheese for breakfast.
Who wouldn't while in Paris?
On our way to the market, we cut down a backstreet as a shortcut. As we were walking we spotted an elderly man, dressed in a cassock, struggling with two large paper sacks filled with produce. He was apparently trying to get a door open without dropping the bags. Steve and I looked at each other and without saying a word we went to help him. The two of us each grabbed a bag from him. He was momentarily startled, but then smiled at us and unlocked the door. Without speaking he stepped through the door and then turned and took the bags from us one at a time, placing them inside on a shelf to the side of the door out of our sight. Then, right before he slammed the door in our faces, he said quite distinctly in English, "Thank you, Steven, thank you, Robert."
Stunned, we looked at each other.
"How did he know your name?!" I asked.
"Who's Robert?!" Asked Steve.
As most of you know, my full given name is Robert Michael; some of you also know that as a young child in the South I was called BobbyMike. An even fewer know that when I was 5 years old, I demanded that my family call me Michael, as I didn't like BobbyMike or Robert. My family, perhaps bemused by my earnestness, acquiesced and started calling me Michael. By the time we moved to California everyone knew me as Michael and very few people actually knew my first name was Robert. Steve certainly didn't.
After I explained to Steve that my first name was Robert his response was, "Woah, trippy!".
I did not verbalize my experience, but I felt, very strongly, that my creator was speaking through that priest and saying simply that He knew me and He cared enough to let me know that.
That viewpoint, that the creator of the universe, the creator of everything, knew me by name (and by extension knows us all by name) has shaped my view of my life to a huge degree.
God knows and loves each and every one of us.