Over the last few months, I have had two people encourage me on different occasions to always keep “stones of remembrance” through both joyous seasons and trials. One person who told me this was my dearest girlfriend who, despite experiencing the intense heartache of losing a child, always has a smile on her face and peace in her heart and time for coffee with me when I’m at my worst! The other person who advised me to keep a physical record of what the Lord has done in my life was my pastor. Different people, different backgrounds, different occasions, but still the same advice.
Earlier this week, I began seeking out what the Lord had to say about these so called stones of remembrance and found myself studying the book of Joshua – particularly the 4th chapter. In this chapter Joshua has come to cross the Jordan river with the ark of the covenant in tow. Generations earlier, the Israelites along with Moses saw the Red Sea parted so that they could pass easily across it in their time of need, but this time the Lord commands Joshua to have his men step into the water, which is quite high, and He will provide a way for them to pass. The Lord, not one to break promises, causes a miraculous drying of the river instantly and the water does not return until the last Israelite and the ark of the covenant has crossed to the other side. The Lord commands Joshua to take stones from the dry riverbed and erect a memorial in Gilgal so that fathers can tell the future generations what miraculous things happened in that place due to the faithfulness of the Lord.
As I started researching more about this passage, I found myself hearing a similar message about these stones. J. Vernon McGee said in his sermon about Joshua 4 that, “…the business of parents is to give their children the gospel.” Over and over as I studied different pastors and commentaries, I found this same thought echoed. Stones of remembrance are not only for the ones who experience the mighty hand of God working in their lives, but are also a memorial to be used a teaching tool for younger generations.
The past year and a half we have had many moments that should have been memorialized but we breezed right past them and unless you’re looking through my facebook feed backwards, it might seem like it never even happened because the ordinary mundane tasks of life have a way of overshadowing the miraculous somehow. My two stepsons, who did not grow up in church or reading the bible both gave their life to Christ this last year. My oldest stepson, who has been the most adamant about hating church and God, served for the first time on our worship team last Sunday. On our mantel sits a framed bible verse our kids gave us for Christmas last year – it was the first scripture they had memorized. So much has changed (besides being taller than me now) since I came into these young boys (now young men) lives 6 years ago, and yet, I forget to truly set up a stones of remembrance- not just for me or my husband to look on during the hard days of our second trip through adolescence and highschool, but also for the kids to look back on when they are older and may be questioning their faith or need help remembering why they believe what they say they believe even though they face persecution.
Our society actually focuses on esteeming every single event in our lives so much that I think we actually lessen the impact of a true memorial. For instance, we post pictures of our food or our daily adventures on facebook or Instagram and share them with anyone and everyone. We buy cheap souvenirs from expensive vacations to remember our time away. We take pictures of every accomplishment our kids achieve, save every outgrown article of school spirit-wear, purchase every DVD of every concert, but can still fail to hide in our hearts the more impactful moments – like the first time you hear your child pray or tell you they KNOW God is speaking to them. Don’t get me wrong, we should actively engage in the activities our kids are a part of, but those accomplishments should pale in comparison to the way we esteem the active hand of God working in their lives if we want to raise men and women who can change the world through the power of Christ that resides in them.
I want to challenge you as I challenge myself to set up stones of remembrance for your children (biological or blended) and their walk with Christ – not just for them but also for you. It is so easy to miss big changes when we see someone day after day. Keep a journal of things they tell you, wear a necklace with birthstones of the month they were baptized, pray with them, but more than anything, help them to remember where they came from (even if they are not saved right now). Obviously, I was not around for the physical birth of my two stepsons (that would be weird, huh?), but I was fortunate enough to be the first one each of them confessed their acceptance of Christ to. I am human. I get frustrated with my blended family and the unique struggles that being a stepmom brings, however I can look back on this path and KNOW that the Lord has been working and will continue to work and I am certain that setting up a special remembrance for the sweet times only further helps us through the difficult ones and helps us see the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the Lord.
20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:20-24 NIV