The headline caught my eye: “10 Ancient Cities Lost in History.” Pompeii made the list, preserved since a volcano buried it in AD 79. I have visited it several times over the years.
Petra is on the list as well, the majestic city in Jordan made famous by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Its library and other structures are stunning, as I have noted in several visits over the years.
The Cliff Palace in Colorado is another favorite of mine. The Anasazi built and occupied this remarkable village from AD 900–1200. The day my family and I spent touring its remains was a picturesque journey back in time. As was my visit to Troy, the city in Turkey made famous by Homer. Its imposing walls would have made assault by the Greeks impossible, necessitating a trick like the Trojan horse.
I have been to the Greek island of Santorini, but I missed seeing Akrotiri, a Minoan city destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Thera in 1600 BC. I have not been privileged to visit the ancient Roman city of Timgad in Algeria, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, Machu Picchu in Peru, Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, or the underwater city of Pavlopetri in Greece. But I could.
Seeing ourselves as God sees us
Obviously, these “lost” cities did not stay lost. They were unknown to history at one time, but each has been discovered or rediscovered and is now available to us.
This simple fact is worth remembering in these days of pandemic disease and racial protests. At this writing, COVID-19 has claimed more than 449,000 lives. Each of them was known personally by his or her Maker. Each of them was someone for whom Jesus died (Romans 5:8).
Protesters have rallied across the US and around the world in recent weeks. Every victim of racial injustice is a precious soul known personally by his or her Creator. Every person of every race is descended from the same parents (Genesis 3:20) and loved by our Father (John 3:16).
What is “lost” to historians or to the larger society is not lost to God. His word reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). We are assured that “no creature is hidden from his sight” (Hebrews 4:13).
One of the major challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine is the epidemic of loneliness being suffered by millions of people. One of the terrible consequences of racial sin is the way it depreciates sacred lives.
In the pain and chaos of these days, it is vital that we see ourselves as God sees us—as someone he chose to create, someone for whom his Son chose to die, someone he invites into paradise for eternity (John 14:2–3; Luke 23:43).
And it is vital that we see each other as God sees us and share their lives as God shares ours. Henri Nouwen was right: “The beginning of healing is in the solidarity with the pain. In our solution-oriented society it is more important than ever to realize that wanting to alleviate pain without sharing it is like wanting to save a child from a burning house without the risk of being hurt.”
I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your Father’s personal, passionate love for you. And then to ask him to help you share that love with the next person you meet.
Perhaps they will say with John Newton, “I once was lost but now am found,” to the glory of God.