Memorials and amnesia
Do you ever stop to think about why we have memorials? Do they have any place in today’s hi-tech world? Is there still a value for something like Memorial Day?
Memorials connect us to our past, but they do more than that. They illuminate our path to the future. Either we will stumble in the darkness, or we will walk in the light of memorials. It’s like that famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Santayana)
Memorials remind us of heroic deeds, and of epic failures. Just wander down to the National Mall and you’ll see both types of memorials. Some of them inspire us. Some of them humble us. They’re struggling to help illuminate our way forward, calling us to remember, to learn, to grow wise, and to avoid repeating the same painful lessons of the past.
What about memorials of faith? There are clear examples in the pages of the Bible. The 11th chapter of Hebrews is filled with “heroic people” of faith.
But there’s a powerful story in the history of Israel that can illuminate the future for all of us. The nation had wandered for decades, waiting to enter the land God promised them. Before they could enter, they had to cross the Jordan river, a raging torrent of danger and destruction.
The leaders went first, and as they stepped into the river in faith, God made a way for them. The whole nation crossed unscathed onto the other side. But then, God instructed them to take twelve boulders from the middle of the river and use them to build a memorial on the riverbank in their new land. And here’s why:
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
A memorial to God’s faithfulness. A memorial to remind them. (You can read the whole story here, in Joshua 3 and 4.)
They needed this memorial for the same reason we do. We forget. We forget God’s promises, his presence, and his power. Memorials are more than just a trip down memory lane. They’re more than just nostalgia. They’re beacons arcing thru our amnesia and illuminating the path God has set before us toward an abundant life.
What’s your memorial? What reminds you of God’s faithfulness? (This is one of the huge benefits of reading Scripture daily.)