. . . and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” —Joshua 4:5–7
One morning when I got up to go to the bathroom, the room was in total darkness. I walked towards the place where I recall the toilet was and found myself to the toilet seat. I remember my father—who was almost blind, how he used to walk slowly and tentatively towards where he wanted to go as he remembers it.
When it is dark and I cannot see, it is good to remember. My memory becomes my sight. Of all the senses I have, I used to think sight is most important. My worst fear is to be blind. So horrible—not being able to see. When I started writing my book, I was anxious about not being able to see the whole picture and not knowing how to piece the parts together.
As I read through the bits and pieces, I remember the words God gave me—the stories he shared with me, the journey he walked with me. These memories are precious.
When I was young, I had better memory: I could memorize all the lessons, and details of all the subjects in school. I even memorized all the schedules of my favorite TV shows—days, times, channels. Then there were birthdays, phone numbers, bank account numbers. As aging has caught up with me, I am often frustrated that I cannot even remember whether I took my medicine five minutes after I did.
More than raw data, our mind stores memories of relationships we shared over time and space in our lives. Indeed our capacity to remember is an important asset of our being. A person with amnesia can be likened to a tree with no root. It’s terrible not to remember your past, both the good and the bad. While we need to let go of the past with its wrongs, failures and regrets whether ours or others’, we need to hold on to the good, the right, the hurdles we passed, the temptations we overcome, the healing and the guidance we had—that led us up to where we are now.
In the above passage, when Joshua leads the Israelites to cross the Jordan River—in their final phase of the journey to take possession of the Promised Land—God instructs him to have the leaders of the twelve tribes carry twelve stones from the river to commemorate this significant event. The stones were to serve as a lasting memorial to remind the people of God’s guidance, faithfulness, protection, and provision in leading them across into the Promised Land.
In my life, I have many standing stones of God’s grace and mercy. In my book, I tried to remember the major standing stones that mark turning points in my life, and I have tried to tell my stories through the lens of God’s Word. I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten the way for me to relate and apply God’s Word to each step of my life journey.
At times I have been afraid that I would not be able to see clearly what to write about. There are so many choices, perspectives, and stories, and I have often been bewildered about which to include and how to connect them together.
In these times, I remember how in the book of Numbers, twelve spies are sent out to scout the Promised Land. Ten of them give a bad report, anxiously comparing themselves to the giant size of land’s inhabitants (Num. 13:28–29, 31–33). After hearing this report, all the people cry out in fear and regret: “If only we did not leave Egypt… if only we died there or in the desert… what if the giants kill us all… what if our family were taken captive…Perhaps better to go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:1–4).
But two people give a positive report. Caleb says, “We should go take possession of the land for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30) “If the Lord is pleased with us” (v. 8). Then Joshua and Caleb report that the land is exceedingly good—filled with giant grapes, flowing with milk and honey (14:7–8).
They know with certainty that God will lead them into the promised land and give the land to them as long as they fear God and not men. Joshua and Caleb focus on God. They remember how God led them through and out of Egypt.
Angered by the people’s fear that God will not keep his promise, God says: “These forgetful and ungrateful people…How long before they turn from their contempt and unbelief in me?” (14:11).
The people see how God kills off the ten spies who brought the bad report and decide to believe that God will give them victory over the giants. But when they fight the giants, they fail because they ignore Moses’s warning and try to go ahead by themselves, doing things their way, by their timetable (14:40–45).
I don’t want to be timid like the ten spies who focused on the giants, but like Joshua and Caleb, confident in God’s grace and mercy through the whole of my story.
Later, in Numbers 33, when the Israelites finally arrive in the Promised Land after journeying for forty years in the wilderness, God tells Moses to record the stages and stopovers of their travel.
Their journey started triumphantly with their liberation from the Egyptian slavery through God’s ultimate plan—killing the first-born of all Egyptian households (vv. 3–5) This ended the long stopover they had in Egypt. Each succeeding stop was recorded—some were milestones and landmarks of God’s further protection and provision during their flight: the Red Sea, where Egyptian soldiers and horses were drowned; Elim, where there was springs and palm trees; Rephidim, where there was no water; and many other places, where the people complained of food and water. All these stops were written down so that the people of God would remember the significant places along their journey. Each stop was significant because it was part of the whole journey until they reached their destination.
In life, we need to remember significant events of God’s guidance and providence as well. Each stop or milestone provides an opportunity for us to remember a lesson we have learned along the way. We remember the mistakes we made. We strive to do better and not to repeat the same mistakes. For moments of triumph, we give thanks and remember that everything is by God’s grace and mercy.
As I reflect on my journey, my hope is that it will spark memories and connections within your story. What do you need to remember all the days of your life? How has God shown his goodness in your life? Is memory lighting the corners of your mind? Or is your memory getting dusty from the challenges and difficulties of the present? Now is the time to remember and celebrate.
Each of us has standing stones of God’s grace and mercy. The following excerpt from All the Way My Savior Leads Me, a song by Fanny Crosby, reminds us of God’s presence with us through all seasons of life:
All the way my Savior leads me, What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell!
Dear God, thank you for your acts of grace and mercy to me. Please help me to remember all the days of my life when you lead me through the valleys and the mountains – in good times and bad. Let me celebrate your goodness always. Amen.