A newly established birthday tradition has been to review a particular journal entry. Yesterday, as I read through it (excerpt below) and compared it to how life is currently, it was a beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness. In order for your faith to grow, it’s vital for you to have physical reminders of what God has, and is, doing.
“Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24)
I had never been one to make a big deal of birthdays, most years I did something small, or nothing at all. Ironically, I gifted myself a trip to New York for my 21st assuming it would be a great start to a brilliant year. That didn’t exactly go to plan. Fast-forward to my 22nd birthday; this is how I began a 16-page journal entry :
“So I’ve been 22 for all of 10 days and I started my 22nd birthday in tears. I was upset because my 21st year had been marked with failure; the burden of which I could no longer handle and had no idea how to deal with. I woke up that morning wondering ‘what if this year is just as bad or worse?’ You see I had all these plans and I was watching them crumble – how do you deal with that when there’s no back up?… I cried on my birthday and several days since. It hurts to feel like you have no sense of direction… But most of all it hurts to feel like a failure. In a way I know that I’m not defined by these failures, in fact a song I heard recently said “your thoughts [God’s] define me, you’re inside me, you’re my reality.” However, I held my goals very dear to me and I’m yet to experience the reality of that song. The only positive thing about my current situation is that God has my attention. In fact, I’ve been wondering if things have turned out this way so He could remind me that my life is not my own and He has a purpose for it that I’m yet to understand.”
The Israelites used the memorial stones to commemorate a happy occasion; however, it’s also useful to ‘preserve’ low points. I look forward to birthdays simply because I can re-read this entry and marvel at how far God has brought me. Chapter 21 wasn’t that long ago, but funnily enough that period of despondency was used to forge a close relationship with God. When I think about how I got to my current point (spiritually) – I can retrace my steps back to the entry above. Granted it would have been hard to forget given that my breakdown coincided with my birthday! Nevertheless, a written (i.e. tangible) memorial is all the more poignant as memories can erode over time.
The reason that God wanted the Israelites to have memorial stones is simple: they would forget. Human beings are remarkably forgetful. My birthday wish for you is that you would be intentional about creating your own memorial stones. Find a way to immortalise the pivotal moments in your faith walk, especially the big and small wins. Over time, you’ll have accumulated so many tangible reminders about why you should trust God that it’ll be impossible for you not to have faith. There are many ways you could create a ‘contemporary’ memorial (unless you’re particularly fond of stones…), here are just a few:
- Buy/Make – a stone was a physical, visible reminder for the Israelites. Buy (or make!) something that will remind you of the specific experience you intend to memorialise.
- Draw – if you’re more creative than I am, then a hand drawn picture (physical or digital) could be really cool. Imagine having a whole gallery of pictures that you can connect with a particular instance of God’s goodness!
- Journal – I don’t record everything, but my main journal has the lowest lows and highest highs from the past 6 years. It’s genuinely humbling to see how far God has brought me.
- Song write – just last week I was looking at all my scripture songs and I smiled at the title of the verse that came to mind the day God encouraged me to leave masturbation and pornography for good. Creating the song (not just memorising the verse) has been super helpful.
- Testify – whether it be to a friend or the whole church. It’s crazy how sharing something has meant that others then encourage me with reminders of how God has lead me.
Your faith lives and dies by your recollections of your encounters with God. If you fail to prolong the memories (through tangible memorials), you make it easier to doubt God in the future. Those memorials play a big part in ensuring that your thoughts are saturated with reminders of God’s goodness.