"Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder… to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them… these stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” -Joshua 4:5-7
“At last I know the presence
of the world made without hands…
Gratitude for the gifts of all the living
and the unliving,
gratitude which is the greatest gift,
quietest of all,
passes to me through the trees.” -Wendell Berry
There is a repetitious cycle that most of us familiar with the Old Testament or our own faith journeys can quickly identify - God’s people have misbehaved and are in some sort of bondage. God’s people repent and call out to God for help. God saves his people from destruction. Repeat.
Here in Joshua after such a cycle we see instructions given to set up an actual, physical thing to help in the act of remembering God’s intervention.
As it turns out in the busyness of nation building, of home building, in the busyness of family raising, of pursing excellence vocationally, in the busyness of preparing for the next event, the next purchase, in the busyness of being entertained and entertaining others, it can be very difficult to remember. To remember, even, the startling ways in which God has intervened to help us, to free us, to cause us great joy or, at least, surprising peace in hard times.
This is because remembering is a chore and a choice. It rarely just happens.
Every now and again a certain song will come on the radio and take us exactly back to a place we were 15 years ago. Every now and again a certain smell will do the same.
But in the day-in/day-out grind of living, the act of remembering is something we have to actively create space for - to seek the silence that allows a memory’s return.
But the beautiful thing about this kind of work is that if we remember deeply enough, if we remember truly enough, we find that we have much to be grateful for.
And when we locate gratitude, praise is never far behind.. And when we locate praise, we are reminded of what we were placed on this earth to do.