The new journal is purchased – a must for any of my trips – and promise seems to fill me as I leaf through the pages that will soon be filled with unforseen struggle and hopes fulfilled, joys, tears, questions, passion, prayers, aches, revelation, deepening, etc.
And yet, there is a piece of me that refuses to leave behind the old journal – I picture it now sitting on my bed (not yet in the shelf of journals from years passed) as the new one has just been christened on my last flight – wishing I could add pages to continue the story that has been written this past year in my old one – any of you journalers out there know that those pages somehow become a friend. However, I am often like this in many areas of my life – expectant for all that lies ahead as a new season is reached, and yet the fear of leaving behind what has been makes me ache to not step through the door of that new season – in truth, I often resist change.
And I feel that pull even now. As I sit in the JFK airport awaiting my flight to Israel to board and realizing there is only one more day in 2011, I sense myself drifting over this past year and all it held. This year held both deep struggle, unexpected triumph, and every emotion in between. And as the emotions seem to rush over me with the realization that I finally ‘made it’ to this next year, I remember a Bible Study I led with the concourse team during the last Women of Faith event this year about Joshua and the Stones of Remembrance – and nothing seems more fitting than that truth in this moment…
After Moses’ death, the Lord calls Joshua to lead the people over the Jordan River as they press on to the promised land – the promise and command He gives Joshua is empowering and you should really read it in Joshua 1:1-9 🙂 – but it ends with the Lord saying…
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
The ark of the covenant was to go with the entire nation as they crossed the Jordan. The people were instructed to “not come near the ark, in order that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before.” And Joshua instructs the people to “consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3: 4-5) The importance of allowing the presence of the Lord to lead and to consecrate ourselves is something not to be missed in passing through this story!
When the time finally came to cross the Jordan, the priests who were to bear the ark of the covenant were told that the waters would not part until the soles of the feet of the priests rested in the waters of the Jordan. As it says in Joshua 3:15, “now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest,” and those high waters would have concealed some uncertain terrain of tree roots and such at the banks of the river. I love this because it was a huge step of faith (literally and figuratively) for the priests to step into the Jordan – they would have known that it was not going to be an easy task to find firm ground right away – and yet they stepped forward (that alone has deeply challenged me).
Try to stay with me 🙂 Verse 17 tells us the priests bearing the ark stood firmly on dry ground until the entire nation crosses the river. No small feat! And here is what I love – when the entire nation had passed through, the Lord instructs Joshua to have twelve men, one from each tribe, take one stone each (twelve total) from the very place the priests stood in the midst of the Jordan and lay them in the place where they would stay that night so that
this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those 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. (Joshua 4:6-7)
Then in verse 9, which may be my favorite piece of this story, it says that “Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feel of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant stood.” 40,000 people ready for war passed through, and when “the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.” (4:18) Yet again, Joshua tells the people that the reason for the stones are to tell the next generations what the Lord has done,
so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24)
How in the world does this story relate to the close of another year? Stones of Remembrance! Since we no longer build altars or erect stones after major events (although grave stones represent a stone of remembrance), I think we forget the importance of placing a marker on a significant event in our life – especially a significant event when God delivered us or performed something miraculous.
But we need to place those stones of remembrance in our lives. And sometimes they are private stones like the 12 Joshua placed in the midst of the Jordan river which no one would have seen after the people crossed. And sometimes they are placed where all can see – and when others ask why they are there, we can tell them what the Lord has done, just as Joshua told the people.
This blog for instance serves sometimes as a public stone of remembrance. And some of the stories contained in my journal hold private stones. But both point remind me that the Lord provides – that He will overcome when it seems that there is no way out – that I can trust when I feel Him asking me to step out into the overflowing banks of my own Jordan river, knowing the waters will not part until I step out in faith – that even in the darkest of nights, I can look to those stones and find hope in the moments that I knew without a doubt that the Lord was and is I AM.
So as the calendar of 2011 draws to a close, I am keenly aware of the unknowns that lie ahead of me even on this Israel trip on which I am embarking just now – the unknowns do not amount to what the Israelites faced as they crossed, but they are still just as real in my world. But I can cling to the promise and take courage just as Joshua did – and regardless of unknowns that await, I can say in this moment that the Lord has provided and delivered in ways I never could have imagined. That is my testimony as people ask why I may write these blogs – they are my own stones of remembrance that I pray somehow encourage and incite dialogue and help someone out there know they are not alone. And these stones provide hope for me as I look ahead. And may they somehow provide hope as you look ahead into the unknowns of your own life.