I love those historical markers you see along the roads. They’re embossed metal, with print so small you could never read it from the car, even if you weren’t zooming past. Some stand beside busy thoroughfares, but some are on quiet streets or by scenic overlooks. We stop if we can. (I guess we’re history nerds.)
When we read those signs, we learn a little bit of relevant history. But more importantly, we’re reminded that we’re standing where many others have stood: living, fighting, succeeding (and failing), dying.
We sense our place in a bigger story.
We understand the sacrifices made for our lives to be what they are.
We confirm that we’re not alone.
When the people of Israel crossed the Jordan river into the promised land, God parted the waters for them to pass. After everyone crossed, Joshua told representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel to go back and each pick up a stone from the riverbed. Joshua took the twelve stones and stacked them near their campsite as a memorial to the event (Joshua 4:1-9). He told the people,
In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. –Joshua 4:6-7
They stacked the stones so that they could tell the story.
Just like the Hebrew people had markers, and our country has—even needs—historical markers and monuments, our families need them. We can create small monuments to the spiritually significant events in our family life.
Spiritual markers help us remember God’s faithfulness.
They remind us of our place in a bigger story.
They mark the sacrifices made for us to become who we’ve become.
They confirm that God is consistent and present.
They strengthen our faith and the faith of everyone who hears the stories attached to them.
For these reasons, the psalmists also thought it important to recount the major events in Israel’s history. In Psalm 78, he starts like this:
I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. –Psalm 78:2-4
Tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord…
Our markers should:
- Be easily visible and tangible
- Represent any specific moment in which God was faithful
- Tell our family’s story through the lens of our faith
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story. –Psalm 107:2a
Your family’s spiritual markers could take many shapes. Here are a few ideas.
- Stones. Pick up a stone from the ground when something special happens. My son was baptized in an ocean. We found a smooth stone on the beach and wrote “baptized” on it. You might make a stack of stones or keep a small basket on a shelf. Write a one-word description of the event and the date on each one. At times of celebration or difficulty, pull them out to remind yourself and your family of God’s faithfulness.
- Photos. Convert your photo wall into a spiritual timeline for your family. Maybe they’re not the very best pictures, but they are the most important. Write the date and a note on the back of each frame in case you forget why you hung that particular photo.
- Measurements. You know that wall where you mark your child’s/children’s growth? Use it to mark your family’s spiritual growth at the same time. When something significant happens, mark your child’s height on the wall and add a note about the important thing that happened at that height. If you expect to move soon, consider using a growth chart, or simply hang butcher paper in your hallway.
Most importantly, tell the stories. It’s not enough to have the markers visible. Tell the stories over and over so your children will remember them. Just the other day, my oldest said she never tires of hearing our engagement story. At this point, she can tell it herself, but she still likes to hear us share it. Because she knows the story, she knows God was “all over” our early months together, that He brought us together, and that her dad and I love each other.
What stories do your children need to know in order to strengthen their faith and cement their place in your family?
Even if your children are older, it’s not too late to establish your figurative stack of stones. Take some personal time to list the important events in your family’s life (usually starting with how you met your spouse) and reflect on how you see God’s hand in what happened. Perhaps on a special occasion (child’s birthday, Thanksgiving meal, even family vacation) begin to share those special stories and present your version of the stones. You might share all your stories in a weekend, or you might space them out over several months or a year. (I can think of all kinds of great ways to do this. DM me if you want to hear some of them!)
When we Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories, we ensure a legacy of faithfulness for the following generations.
Do you have a special way to remember important spiritual moments in your family’s life? Is there one particular story your children love to hear? Pleases share your thoughts/ideas in the comments below!