The dim glow of moonlight streamed through the blinds behind me. I shifted my weight as I attempted to contort my right arm over the edge of the pack-and-play while still maintaining a place on the floor for my tired body to rest.
My lips repeated, “Shh, shh, shh,” while my almost-numb hand rubbed the back of the child below. Maybe this time he would stay asleep.
I’d been here often, praying for silence, for sleep, and mostly for patience. Though as I repeated this ritual with my third child that sleepy night, I suddenly became aware of what the years of this practice had built up around me. Little did I know, each cry for sleep and silence was another rock I carefully added to an invisible monument.
My mind had built a memorial of what God had done for me. Each invisible rock was representative of the grace, the strength, the patience, and even the forgiveness that the Spirit had provided sleepless night after sleepless night. I knew he would sustain me again that night, just as he always had.
The Bible is full of monuments, memorials, and celebrations. In our Western culture, so far removed from the context of its middle-eastern audience, we can easily skip over the importance of them. While there is nothing mystical about Jacob’s well or Jewish feasts, these moments and celebrations can remind us of who our God is and the tension we must hold in this world as we wait for him.
Holidays like Memorial Day prompt us to look at the past for good reason. Yet the truth is, we are constantly surrounded by memorials. We build them amidst the mundane of our days, and we would do well to look closer into what they are teaching us.
REMEMBER THE DEEDS OF THE LORD
Just as the Israelites were rescued by judge after judge only to turn back to their idol worship, we too can forget the mighty works of the Lord. It’s why many of the Psalms were penned about what God had taken his people through. It’s why David proclaims, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord,” and why he desires not only to remember them, but also to meditate on them (Ps. 77:11-12).
Throughout Israel’s history, God provided his people with opportunities to remember what he had done. Sometimes it was merely a place—a well dug by their forefathers years ago, or the rock that Moses struck to provide water for God’s people (Num. 20:1-3). Other times it was a purposeful memorial, such as the altar Jacob built after hearing the promises of God in a dream (Gen. 28:18-19). And in many cases, it was an event; a celebration to remind God’s people of his goodness, such as the Feast of Booths where the Israelites would sleep in tents for a week to remember their heritage in the wilderness (Lev. 23:42-43).
As the Jewish people walked past a known landmark or took part in the yearly celebration, they actively recalled what God had done for them. They were faced with the reality of God’s deliverance. In the New Covenant, we are no longer bound by ceremonial laws and feasts. We might be far from glancing at the rock that sprung forth water, and yet we too can find memorials throughout our seemingly ordinary lives in Christ. Slowly, in the midst of our days, we start to build them even when we don’t know it.
Perhaps your monument is a passage of Scripture that echoed in your life to bring strength during a period of suffering. Maybe it’s the birthday of the child you never dreamed you’d hold in your arms. Maybe it’s the fellowship of the new brother in the faith, for whom you had prayed for years to see the truth of God’s grace. Or maybe, like me, it’s the simple hours of sleepless nights, a space where God has proved himself faithful again and again.
HOPE IN THE ALREADY
We may not sleep in tents once a year like the Israelites, but each moment of repentance, each small growth in our sanctification, and each day of the faithfulness of our Father in every struggle is a reminder of the goodness of the Lord, bringing us from darkness to light (1 Pet. 2:9).
Each of these memorials shows us just a piece of the “already” we have been given. They remind us of the salvation of our Savior. They show us the kindness he has already promised us. They show us the faithfulness, the justification, the forgiveness, the mercy, and every spiritual blessing he has already lavished on us in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
Just as the Jewish people came to drink at Jacob’s well and recalled their heritage and provision, we too can look at the memorials in Scripture and in our own lives to see the providing hand of the God who is faithful to do as he said he would. Each morning we wake in the newness of life. We wake united to Christ—and the good gifts we receive should always point us to him (Jas. 1:17).
We rejoice and remember these memorials, not because they are something special or spiritual in themselves, but because of who they point to—the God who has rescued. The God who has been faithful.
BUT NOT YET
Yet often, mixed within our lives are memorials that prove bitter. They show us God’s goodness in what he’s already done, but they remind us we are not yet complete.
When Christ ascended to the heavens he left us waiting and restless for his return. He had healed the sick and raised Lazarus from the dead, but they would taste pain and death again. We all still live in the in-between, a world marked by newness of life, in a vessel that’s crumbling (2 Cor. 4:7-9).
What brings us joy often later cloaks us in pain. Our memorials show us the already as well as the not yet. Celebrations that show the faithfulness of God will eventually feel the sting of the empty chair and the missing loved one. Dates may hold rejoicing just as much as they hold deep wounds. Sometimes our scars leave us looking back in awe, and sometimes they only push us forward. Sometimes they serve to be a memorial not of joy, but of a pained hope.
This tension is not unique to our lives; it can be seen throughout the Biblical narrative as well. The place of Meribah, where water flowed from a rock to quench a thirsty Israel, stood not only as a reminder of God’s provision, but also as a dire warning of the holiness of God and the ungratefulness of his people (Num. 20:13).
A landmark like Jacob’s well may have provided for the generations of Israelites through their growth into a great nation, yet they soon found themselves in exile and eventually under Roman occupation. As Jesus sat by this well, he explained to the Samaritan woman that the one who drank from this water would always be thirsty. Instead, Christ offered a different water—a living water which would never run out (John 4:13-16). As Christians, we’ve already tasted this water of life, yet at the same time we wait for the day when living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, and the Lord shall be king over all the earth (Zech. 14:8-9).
We find this again in the Feast of Booths, when the Israelites celebrated their history of deliverance. They remembered their past as a wandering people and rejoiced for the land God had given them. It’s a beautiful picture of deliverance, but it’s a reality that still exists. God’s people still sleep in tents. He’s rescued us from bondage, but we remain homeless and feel the tension in our homes, jobs, and communities. We are strangers on this earth, waiting and longing for the home we can’t yet hold (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 11:13-16).
Perhaps this tension is most beautifully portrayed in our churches each Sunday as we approach the Lord’s Table. We take part in the glory of what has been accomplished on our behalf by Christ’s death and resurrection. We are able to remind ourselves of our adoption as sons and daughters. And yet still we feel a deep lack. We feel the discrepancy between what we now experience and what we know is to come. We take the elements, expectant for the day we will finally get to partake of this feast with the Savior who bought it for us.
HOLDING BOTH TOGETHER
Whether we realize it or not, we are building monuments in our lives. They show us who God has been. And they push us to hope, strive, and press on for the day when we will see him as he is (1 Cor. 13:12). We hope for the day when he will descend just as he came (Acts 1:11). And as we look at the memorials and the moments of God’s goodness throughout Biblical history, it is helpful to see we aren’t alone.
Together in our waiting, we rejoice for the great and mighty works God has done for us. And while we wait, we can find hope in the painful days that push us to look to the hope that lies ahead, when we will be fully united to Christ.
Let’s keep looking for and building our monuments—both the beautiful and the difficult. We can rejoice in both, knowing that because he has been faithful, he will be faithful to the end.
Brianna Lambert is a wife and mom to three, making their home in the cornfields of Indiana. She loves using writing to work out the truths God is teaching her each day. She has contributed to various online publications such as Morning by Morning and Fathom magazine. You can find more of her writing paired with her husband’s photography at lookingtotheharvest.com.