Is it important to remember life-changing or defining moments? Of course, it is. Keeping such things in our memories allows the substantial impact to remain with us. They keep us focused on what is important and snap us back to reality when we begin to lose our way.
One of our more common methods of remembrance is to establish memorials. Memorials tend to be erected to commemorate events and interactions that left lasting impacts on those who raise them. These are events a generation wants to remember personally, but also that they want future generations to understand the magnitude of.
I recall being in Europe in the summer of 2001, just months before the 9/11 attacks and seeing various memorials to those who died in WWII on the beaches of Normandy, France. Some were very purposeful and well-designed, like the statue “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.” Other memorials are simply relics left behind from the catastrophic events of those days, landing craft.
We see this practice from Israel as well in the scriptures. The most meaningful ones came in the form of altars because they commemorated the places where God intersected their lives. For them, these altars were signs of religious allegiance and devotion to God who had impacted their lives so deeply.
A few examples include:
- Genesis 8:20 – Noah built an altar after God saved him from the flood
- Genesis 12:7 – Abram built an altar after the promise of descendants from God
- Genesis 26:25 – Isaac built an altar when God protected his freshly dug well
- Genesis 35:7 – Jacob built an altar when he returned to the place God where had previously revealed himself.
- Exodus 17:15 – Moses built an altar when God miraculously helped Israel defeat Amalek
- Joshua 8:30 – Joshua built an altar when Israel renewed their covenant with God after defeat of Ai.
- Judges 6:24 – Gideon built an altar when he was charged by God to lead Israel in battle.
For Christians, physical altars no longer play a role in our religious devotion to God. We do not worship at or place sacrifices upon them. However, we do still have concrete reminders of those moments God intersected our lives in meaningful ways. Our baptism is given to us as a definitive event when we can look back and say, “That’s the moment God gave me a clean conscience and bestowed his grace” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). The Lord’s Supper is a unique memorial of Jesus’ saving sacrifice because it is consumable. Paul tells us that every time we participate in this memorial, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
Consider, also, that we keep personal items that serve as special reminders for such moments in our lives. My office bookshelves contain several items from special times when God felt especially close. Items from retreats, mission trips, and even from personal relationships through the years. I even have a chunk of rock from the very first mountain I climbed, which was a very spiritual experience with the group I was with.
Today, I challenge you to take inventory of the things you have that regularly remind you of those important moments when God touched your life and shaped you into who you are? When was the last time you purposefully reflected on that event? When was the last time you thanked God for that impact? Are you still living in a way that demonstrates that influence? Take a look - Hold it in your hand - Remember