On My Memorial Stone

I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. (John 17:4)

What will I be able to claim at the end of my life?

Sure, people might describe me with the usual words and phrases: “She was a good person, a good mom. She cared. She was helpful.”

Not to sound ungrateful, but those declarations aren’t enough for me. Those things seem so temporary. Oh, they’re good things, but they’re not lasting. They lose meaning out of context, because their meaning is to the people who experienced and felt them. There is more to this life than this life. It is a piece, not the whole.

I want to glorify God. I want Him to determine the meaning and purpose of what I do and who I am.

I want to complete the work He gives me to do. That means I don’t get to rush through a task, check it as “done,” then move on. It means I don’t set my own path and rationalize how He would be pleased. It means I don’t just try to perform what I think He would like, but I ask Him and respond in relationship. It means it’s more about Him than me.

I don’t know if I will be able to claim I have glorified God by completely the work He gives me to do. But I hope so. It’s the best statement I can imagine begin written on my memorial stone. More importantly, it’s the best thing I can imagine saying to God.

Walking Over People

Yad Vashem was one of the most powerful experiences I had in Israel during my first visit. Although I knew what to expect on my return trip, one of those expectations was that I would be a bit rattled…again. Walking through the exhibits that represent a real journey for many is difficult and convicting. So many people were involved in the Holocaust, and I explored a couple perspectives in a past post. I stepped inside and watched the footage of everyday, pre-WWII Jewish life. The footage was different this time. The caption was the same:

“Hundreds of life fragments were woven to become a human tapestry, longing for a life and a landscape that no longer exists. The Jewish world that was lost.”

©archdaily.com
©archdaily.com

I turn away from the screen and began to walk through the exhibits. The design of the building is beautiful, haunting, and intentional. It is triangular, built with a slight upward slope. So, as I stood near the beginning, I stared ahead, knowing how the journey would end: a moving record of all the names of the Jewish Holocaust victims, statements of hope and promise, and a beautiful view of God’s creation. I had a lot of steps to take between where I was and where I was headed.

As I stood between two photos of bodies piled upon each other, I heard a muffled voice and footsteps and noticed a shadow cast on the floor. I looked up. Two people walked through the top of the memorial building. They were outside, but I could see them through the glass. They were talking and laughing in the sunshine as if they were oblivious to anything below them.

I wondered, “What am I passing by?”

Who can see my shadow and hear my laughter while they suffer? I need to consider the piles of people, or even just one, who might lie beneath me…under my feet and under my smile.

People all around us have needs. We might be tempted to assess some as more serious than others, but in the process, we likely ignore what needs attention. Our assessment isn’t as accurate as God’s. We need to trust Him to guide us, help us notice people, and know how we should respond.

Connections aren’t limited to face to face encounters. Sometimes, a shadow, laugh, smile, cry, or glimpse is all it takes for one person to affect another person’s life. Look around, notice, and respond.

Lesson from Nature: Moving On

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

“Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites…This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:5-7,24)

I don’t know what each person intended by stacking his or her cairn on the beach. Some might have simply thought it looked fun or challenging. Others might have done so in remembrance of something or someone. Each stone, each stack was different. But to me, they meant something. Despite not knowing the motivation behind each and every one, they were a reminder of the lesson God taught me about setting standing stones for Him. Not literal stones, but certainly spiritual stones. As I wrote in Pure Emotion. It started with a painful experience, signified by a large, unavoidable stone…

I dealt with it the best I could (which looking back, seems like not dealing with it at all), and I moved on. A few years later, I could feel it poking at me again. I felt like I was right back at the rock even though time had passed. I felt as if I hadn’t grown or healed with the passing time. So I worked it out again, a little differently, hopefully a little more deeply…and I moved on. Again.

A few years passed and it started sticking out again. I trudged back to the rock. Repeated coping and healing. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. It was an exhausting process. I didn’t think about it much in the “in between” times, but each time I trudged back, the effort and pain caught up with me. Each time I thought I was ready to move on. Each time I was caught off guard with the pull back to the rock.

And then, several years ago, I’d had enough. I felt the sharp poking, and I knew what was coming. The exhaustion set in, and I wasn’t happy about it. I was downright angry and said, “God. Why do you keep pulling me back to that place? I thought we’d dealt with this!” I clearly heard his answer in the depth of my soul: “Susan. I’m not taking you back there. You’re trudging back there on your own.”

What?! Why would I put myself through the agony? Yet I wanted to learn and grow, and I was tired of the weariness, so I listened. And God taught.

Consider the trauma like a burn. I’ve never experienced a severe burn, but I understand it’s excruciating. When someone suffers a severe burn, the focus isn’t on reconstruction. It’s on easing the trauma and stopping the burn. No reconstruction can immediately take place. The swelling has to subside. Tissue has to heal. And then reconstruction can take place…after some time.

From what I understand, the reconstruction can be more painful than the original burn. I’m sure there are some similarities. Just as I felt the pull back to the original pain and trudged back to it, a burn victim might feel that initial trauma. Similar pain, but different. The healing that’s taking place couldn’t have taken place at the time of the trauma. But it feels similar enough – and might even feel more painful – and it brings up all kinds of excruciating pain.

After the reconstruction, time must pass in order for the swelling to subside and tissue to heal…in preparation for yet another reconstructive procedure, at which time the process cycles yet again. Feels like the same pain as the trauma. Perhaps worse. But it’s another stage of healing.

And the process repeats itself. Perhaps a little different each time but part of the same journey.

I thought God was pulling me back to the original trauma. But he was healing me a little more along the way. He knew I needed rest in between. He knew it was best for the healing process – and still is. My journey of healing isn’t over, but now it looks like a series of standing stones. You see, each time God worked on me, there’s a monument to commemorate it. I move on from the stone. If I were to camp under it, I wouldn’t need the monument to remind me of the journey. Instead, the stone reminds me of the relationship I have with God. He works on me, and I set a stone of remembrance. And another and another. I keep journeying. Instead of trudging back to an earlier place along the journey, I can stand right where I am, turn my head, and see a line of standing stones as a testament of the dependability of God. I can see and declare, “God was there for me. And there and there and there. He brought me here. And He is here with me, too. I can depend on Him for everything at every place along the journey.” Praise God!

Emotions are moments, not monuments.

We can be pulled back to monuments we’ve erected when we’re experiencing emotional responses. Current pain reminds us of past pain, and we return to the monument. Current frustration reminds us of a pattern of frustration, and we return to the monument. Current fear reminds us of past fears, and we run to hide behind the monument.

But today’s emotion isn’t yesterday’s emotion. Similar? Yes. But if you’re growing in your relationship with God…if you’re asking him to reveal His godly emotions to you and reveal the discrepancies between Himself and you…if you’re drawing closer to the center of His will, your emotions of today only have hints of yesterday’s emotions – an aftertaste. And today’s emotions are a mere appetizer of tomorrow’s emotions. God has a feast planned for you!

Are you ready to move forward, assured in His presence and provision, and savor what He has for you, right now?

They Will Be a Sign

Ring of Brodgar Stones OrkneyAfter all the people had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe. Tell them to get twelve rocks from the middle of the river, from where the priests stood. Carry the rocks and put them down where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua chose one man from each tribe. Then he called the twelve men together and said to them, “Go out into the river where the Ark of the Lord your God is. Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder. They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this.” Joshua 4:1-7

When God moves in our lives, we need to remember. Remembering helps our faith grow and encourages us when we’re struggling. Remembering is a testimony of our faith. It shows others the fruit of living within God’s will. It leaves a legacy – not just of our own faith but of God’s faithfulness. Remembering God’s presence becomes a map for those following us. People will be encouraged along their own journeys because of the signs littering the path along the way.

People in God’s Word have gifted us with signs of encouragement. Through their lives and their journeys of faith – complete with strengths and weaknesses – we’re encouraged to seek and trust God. We’re redirected when we stray off course. We dance with joy when we’re travelling along the beauty of God’s will and realize we’re in a sweet spot for a season.

The rocks we set to acknowledge God’s presence are not to build dwellings. We don’t set one rock on top of another because we’re remaining in the place God showed up. If we stay in that spot, there’s no reason for the rocks. We don’t need to leave a reminder for those who follow behind us, because we’re there as the reminder. If we don’t leave, we can’t leave a legacy. A monument is for remembering. Remembering indicates moving on.

When is one of your favorite memories of God working in your life?

Is your life exactly the same as it was at the time of that memory?

Can you think of any situations or seasons to which you tried to hold on longer than what you believe God wanted you to hold on – whether you realized it at the time or later?

Live It. Pick up a small rock today and write words on it throughout the day to describe God working in your life. As the sun goes down, place the rock somewhere someone will likely find.

The Journey Here

Today’s post is excerpted from the Pure Growth Bible study. Order a copy for yourself, a gift, or small group.

Pure_Growth_Cover_for_KindleYou must not speak against God or curse a leader of your people. Do not hold back your offering from the first of your harvest and the first wine that you make. Also, you must give me your firstborn sons. You must do the same with your bulls and your sheep. Let the firstborn males stay with their mothers for seven days, and on the eighth day you must give them to me. (Exodus 22:28-30)

Where is “here”? What did it take to get you where you currently are in your life journey?

Joshua 4:1-13 explains the purpose of standing stones:

After all the people had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe. Tell them to get twelve rocks from the middle of the river, from where the priests stood. Carry the rocks and put them down where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua chose one man from each tribe. Then he called the twelve men together and said to them, “Go out into the river where the Ark of the Lord your God is. Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder. They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this.”

So the Israelites obeyed Joshua and carried twelve rocks from the middle of the Jordan River, one rock for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded Joshua. They carried the rocks with them and put them down where they made their camp. Joshua also put twelve rocks in the middle of the Jordan River where the priests had stood while carrying the Ark of the Agreement. These rocks are still there today.

The priests carrying the Ark continued standing in the middle of the river until everything was done that the Lord had commanded Joshua to tell the people, just as Moses had told Joshua. The people hurried across the river. After they finished crossing the river, the priests carried the Ark of the Lord to the other side as the people watched. The men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh obeyed what Moses had told them. They were dressed for war, and they crossed the river ahead of the other people. About forty thousand soldiers prepared for war passed before the Lord as they marched across the river, going toward the plains of Jericho.

When we place standing stones where God has shown up in our lives, we move on from the area. If we were to camp under the stones, there wouldn’t be a need for the stones. Monuments mark an experience so that it can be remembered. There’s something significant that happened, and it’s important for you or others to remember. If you remain in the location of the memorial, you can tell people the story yourself. The memorial becomes unnecessary.

Placing memorial stones along your journey are a testimony for those who follow you. It’s not as much about you leaving a legacy as God leaving a legacy. The memorial stones also encourage you to continue your journey. When there are no markers to remember where God moved in your life, you can easily question your past experiences and God’s presence. You might be tempted to revisit experiences – either physically or emotionally – and in the process, you form a revised experience. You might even develop a rut as you trudge back and forth to the past.

On the other hand, when you intentionally place a memorial stone and declare, “God showed up here,” and continue your journey, place a stone and declare, “God was faithful here.” “God challenged me here.” “God provided for me here.” “God gave me peace here.” You can pause at any time along the journey in any situation and glance back to see a line of standing stones. They stand as a testimony to the reliability of God. You can follow that line of stones to where you stand and know God is present where you are. And he will be present as you continue the journey in faith.

How old are you?

I know, it’s not the politically correct question to ask, and you don’t have to respond in the comments section, but when someone asked me on my last birthday, I decided to proudly declare, “I’m 45!” It’s taken me a lot of effort to get to where I am, and while I don’t like every step I’ve taken, I’m glad to have walked through and survived some trials. I’m thankful to have thrived through some wonderful experiences. I’m proud to praise God for where I am and, even more so, for where I’m going.

It’s easy for us to reflect on the past and have regrets or justify our decisions. We either take on a burden of responsibility (when God wants us to release our burdens to him) or avoid responsibility and blame others (when God wants us to admit where we are with authentic disclosure and trust him through what follows). God wants us to trust him through our experiences, because he wants our faith journey to be exclusively with him. He is always walking with us, no matter how far off his path we are. He knows how to get us to where he intends for us to go. He knows his purpose, and he wants us to fully live it.

It’s okay to have baggage. You rarely take a trip without supplies, and your supplies differ based on your destination. Trust God to sift through the baggage you’re carrying around or storing. He knows what you need right now, what you need to put away and store for future use, and what you need to get rid of altogether.

Let God determine the location of your memorial stones and the steps you take along the way.

Pause where you are and glance back. What stones are standing in a memorial to God’s presence in your life?