“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
A memorial is an object that serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person who has died, or an event. The purpose of a memorial is to help you remember and to pay honor to a meaningful person or event in your life. Some memorials are built after tragic events like 9/11 to remind us not only of the people who died but also the circumstances of their death.
A few years ago while studying the book of Joshua, my friend Joe Terry (great bible teacher!) pointed out the benefits of building memorials in our lives. In the beginning of this book, God directs his people to build a memorial to Him after they crossed the Jordan river:
“Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” (Joshua 4: 2-3)
“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)
God directed his people to build the memorial so that future generations would remember all the things that he had done for them. It’s the “Never Forget” sign for those who would come after them. God wanted them to remember his faithfulness. It was also a sign that their old life was gone and that He was bringing them into a new season with new promises. From that point on in their lives, nothing would ever be the same again.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are times in my life when I’ve resisted change because of fear of the unknown. Yet, I’ve come to realize that change is necessary for growth and that for me to give birth to a new thing (dream, goal, season), something must die. There is no life without death. In the spring season, new life begins and is nurtured to its full capacity in the summer and then bears fruit in the fall. And winter, the season of stillness and death, is necessary for the cycle to continue because it’s the death of the old life that brings us to the new life.
So I’ve learned to build memorials to certain seasons in my life so that I will never forget the lessons that I learned in that season, and so I can also remember God’s faithfulness. Here are three reasons why memorials are important:
- It helps you to remember things as they were: When you look back at a season or event, one of two things happens – you either remember only the good things or you remember only the bad things. If you only remember the good things then you think that you made a mistake in leaving. This can lead to depression in new season. If you only remember the bad things that happened, then you may enter the new season filled with bitterness and the inability to forgive. You have to remember the good and bad, and thank God for the lessons learned.
- It helps you to move on: When you put a “Never Forget” sign on the door to an old season, it helps you to remember why you had to leave the old behind. This can mean leaving a certain city, ministry, job, relationship or old way of thinking. Maybe you thought something about yourself for a long time that just isn’t true anymore or maybe you thought something about God’s nature or character that also is not true. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt and they thought that God had forgotten them, but here He was, leading them across the Jordan river, asking them to remember that he had brought them out of that old life to something greater.
- It prepares you for the new season: When you remember things as they were and move on from the past, you are able to bring your whole self into a new environment. The self that you bring is stronger, more alert and better prepared for the battle ahead. You realize that it won’t be easy, that there will be new fears, new struggles and #newlevelnewdevil in this new land, but you’ve learned how to fight better and how to trust God more.
These some of the reasons that God asked his people to build a memorial before bringing them into the promised land. Have you ever felt the need to build a memorial in your own life? One way that I build memorials in my life is by journaling. I write down my thoughts, feeling, hopes and dreams in each season so that I can accurately reflect on the past. If you have another way that you “memoralize” events in your life, let me know in the comments below.