// When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”
Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” //
I remember my entire body going limp and a sensation of weightlessness.
I remember my arms floating out in front of me as confusion and shock flooded my system.
I remember the windshield crumpling and a cocoon of impact sounds—a grind, a screech, a whoosh, a thud—surrounding me.
I remember the moment of absolute silence as I sat shaking right before I climbed out of the window of the SUV, body trembling with adrenaline, mind working in overdrive to figure out what had happened.
I remember walking away perfectly intact but for a few scrapes. I remember that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. I remember that my concussion was so minor that I only ever got a few headaches in the aftermath. I remember that I didn’t need stiches or even band aids. I remember that I wasn’t sore. Like, at all. I remember waking up the next morning alive and well—extremely well, unnaturally well.
That SUV rolled twice before it landed right side up, but I was completely all right.
I remember that God preserved me, that he kept me safe when I shouldn’t have been safe, that his hand covered me so much that I have no scars from that accident.
I remember other times when God has proved his faithfulness to me, even though he is never under an obligation to bless me, even though he doesn’t need me to be safe or happy, even though he doesn’t need me at all.
I remember opening the email that told me a magazine had acquired my first short story. I remember the rush of elation so potent it brought tears. I remember talking long with God about it, trying to express my excitement and thankfulness and wonder because he never had to give me a gift like that. But he did.
I remember wrestling with God over the eleven months of rejections that followed that happy day. I remember what he taught me about myself and himself in those rejections. I remember how he gradually recalibrated my goals and ideas of success.
I remember who I was a year ago today, and I see all the ways God has grown me. I remember my bone-deep pride and my faithlessness, and I remember how he’s remade me again and again, each time with a little less of my old nature.
I remember the season of my life when I was hopelessly entangled with sin and all the depression that came with it. I remember how God pursued me, always had grace for me, made me brave enough to do what I had to do to be free of that sin.
I remember walking through wastelands, and I remember the sudden, intense floods of joy and hope and truth that God rained down upon me.
I remember times of striking loneliness where God met with me, was a friend to me.
I remember the trials of these last few years and how God was walked before me, behind me, and with me through all of it.
I remember being overwhelmed by the weight of how sinful I still am—the pride, the faithlessness, the fear, the selfishness—and thinking to myself, “How will I ever see God?” only to have him take the weight from me and remind me that Jesus finished it—all of it—on that cross.
I remember blanching at the thought of the future only to have him take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.
I remember asking for a new heart, and I remember him giving it.
I remember so many things—the person I have been but am no longer, the times in my life where I couldn’t make it, the heart-breaking twists that crushed me, the impossible coming to pass, the blessings from his hand for no other reason than because he loves me and wants me to know it in new ways, the friendships that have fallen apart and the pain they brought but looking back and seeing why, the pulling through when I didn’t have it in me but he had more than enough.
If we do not make remembrance a habit, our heart of gratitude flatlines, and our faith and hope wither. It is in the practice of looking back—in remembering specifically what God has done in and for us personally—that we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.
We are creatures so prone to forgetfulness. I can forget in the afternoon the joy of meeting with God I had in the morning. I can forget in a couple of months the despair of being caught in sin. I can forget in a few days the urgency that should trademark how I approach evangelism. I can forget in a few minutes to love of God when a trial comes.
But I cannot—I must not—forget.
When the trial comes, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our wonder is gone, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our hope withers, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our faith dies, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be.
But how can we remember?
We must build a memorial beside every Jordan river that God leads us across. He gives us the rocks from his very hand, the stones that build our faith and hope and joy and love if only we remember them.
They are massive boulders. They are little pebbles. And they all build up, help us to understand in our hearts and our heads and delight ourselves in God’s goodness and faithfulness and love, readying us for when his blessings aren’t so apparent.
They are little moments of wonder, and they are life-changing events, and they are weeks and months of growth.
They are the encouraging texts out of the blue.
They are the moments when the presence of the Holy Spirit is undeniably tangible.
They are the massive, unexpected, unnecessary win at work.
They are the conversation with a friend.
They are the peonies with their hundreds of petals in full bloom.
They are the truth we are suddenly, powerfully reminded of down to our core.
They are the old friend who is still a good friend despite the time and distance.
They are the passage of Scripture that comes alive.
They are the hug of a sister.
They are the prayer of a brother.
They are the healing and forgiveness after so much hurt.
They are the fireflies flickering on a summer night.
They are the safety in a dangerous place.
They are the song for the dark of night.
They are the deep sleep that refreshes and renews.
They are the victory when it seemed the fight was lost.
They are the hearts being transformed into the image of Jesus all around us.
They are the remaking of our own hearts day by day.
They are the cancer in remission.
They are the grandparent coming out of the hospital safe and sound.
They are the little things. They are the big things. They are all the things in between. These are the stones with which we build our memorials, our altars of remembrance.
My memorial is made mainly of paper and ink.
I journal to remember, and I keep a notebook of thanksgiving. I also make playlists, and each song reminds me of something specific from different seasons of life.
On July 6—the anniversary of my accident—I buy flowers, and I set aside a little while to think back, to journal, to pray, and to worship. It’s special not because of the flowers or even because I’m alive and well and happy to be; it’s special because on that day I remember well the sovereignty and faithfulness and grace and love and power of my God.
So I encourage you—I challenge you—to remember what your memorial is made of. I challenge you to regularly identify the individual rocks and gravel bits that have built up your altar of remembrance.
Remember who God has said and shown himself to be in his Word and how he’s confirmed it in your life.
I would love to hear from you. What are some things—big and small—that you remember? How do you remember—do you journal or make photo albums or something else entirely?
With much love,
P.S. – Here’s the original post I wrote after my accident in 2016, if you’re interested.
P.P.S. – The whole account of the crossing of the Jordan is pretty spectacular; Joshua 1-5 gives a fairly comprehensive picture of the situation.