Because I’m forgetful, I made a pile of stones and put them in my living room.
I was inspired by a kind woman named Terri Carter whom I’ve met only once in my life. My college choir was performing at her church one weekend almost two years ago, and she hosted me for the evening. Terri and her husband Jim live down south in the US where the air is always warm, and they showed me much love and kindness during my stay. But what I will never forget about Mrs. Carter was the pile of stones in her living room.
I remember walking through their house and admiring all of the rooms, the cherry hardwood floors, the beds that were made perfectly, and the towels that hung just so. In the living room, however, there was one decoration that seemed out of place. Near the front door just next to a plump couch was a very large glass bowl on a side table. Inside the bowl was a pile of smooth stones, and on the face of each stone was a number. In such a lovely house, such an unusual decoration seemed curious.
When I asked my hostess about the numbered stones, her face lit up. Then she told me something I will never forget: those were her stones of remembrance.
One night, she told me, she couldn’t sleep. So she read her Bible, and came across the story in Joshua 4, which tells of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. God told them to get 12 stones from the bottom of the river and build a monument on the other side. They could reach the deep riverbed because God had miraculously caused a dry path to open up in the middle of the river, making a safe way for His chosen people to pass through the danger zone unharmed. God told the Israelites that when their children asked them about those 12 stones, they were to recount the story of God’s faithfulness.
Just like the monument in the book of Joshua, the pile of stones in the Carters’ living room had a meaning. Each numbered stone had a corresponding journal entry recording an instance of God’s intervention in their lives. Like the time they had cried out to the Lord when the rent was due and they had no money, and a check arrived in the mail the next day. If more of us would write and share these mighty works of the Lord, said Mrs. Carter, we could all be encouraged to press on even when the tough times came. That idea stuck with me.
It also made me realize this truth: We’re just terrible at remembering, as were the Israelites.
Psalm 106 recounts their first miraculous river crossing and their memory of it. “So he rescued them from their enemies and redeemed them from their foes . . . Yet how quickly they forgot what he had done!” (Psalm 106:10, 13).
Not much, it appears, has changed in the last few thousand years. I am still quick to forget what God has done.
There have been times in my life when God’s promises seemed blurry, and dark days when all my faith and hope seemed hollow. When the future looked grim and meaningless. In those times, however, God graciously asked me to turn my gaze to my past and the monuments of His faithfulness.
When a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly this summer, it was shocking and painful. It felt like a terrible nightmare, only it was a terrible reality. It opened my eyes to how broken the world really is. That’s when I found encouragement in the testimonies of other people who had experienced similar tragedy, and in the comfort and wisdom of parents, grandparents, and mentors who have walked for years with God and as a result have a deep well of truth to draw from when things seem dark. God’s faithfulness in their lives was encouragement for mine.
In Psalm 77, we find this same pattern of despair turned to remembering.
“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”(Psalm 77:7-12)
Right now, there are three stones of remembrance in my life. They sit in a little glass bowl on my dresser, each with a number, representing the three times when God revealed Himself to me in a life-changing, miraculous intervention. These stones form a monument to God’s faithfulness in my life, and I fully expect to see it grow.
How about you? Are you storing reminders for a dark day, and sharing these testimonies with everyone who asks? It’s time to lay some stones.