Today I spent some time with friends in Scottsdale, Arizona. The weather in Arizona allows for spectacular landscaping. Their home was surrounded by flowers, flowering trees and shrubs, and large ornate pots full of flowers.
But once inside, what intrigued me most were the walls throughout the home where pictures of the past and present were on display. Some were photographs in frames and others looked as if they had been carefully painted by an artist. Certain hallways consisted of a particular era of time or a special moment such as the birth of a child or remembering a loved one who is now in heaven.
Some of the photos captured a “first:” a child’s first steps, the first bicycle ride, the first fish pulled from a creek with a Disney fishing pole, the first snow skiing adventure. Other photos captured moments of accomplishment such as graduating from high school or college.
As I said goodbye to my friends, it occurred to me that I had just taken a journey into their history. Having known them for many years, the photos took me back to seasons I had experienced with them as well as those seasons I had missed.
Walk into any home and, somewhere, you will find the memories of the past told by photographs which speak volumes without a word said. I’ve yet to see a photo of a moment we prefer to forget.
We only frame what we enjoy remembering.
Through the years, I have had some degree of trouble adequately remembering the good things of the past, appropriately forgetting the mistakes and regrets, and aggressively looking to a preferred future that brings hope for a redo of some things I didn’t get right the first time.
I have always found it easier to spend time regretting things from the past, not enough time reflecting on the blessings of the past, and, unfortunately, not enough time setting goals for the future. In other words, I think we all are susceptible to getting stuck in one of those three time zones.
Getting stuck in the past denies the privilege of valuing the present moment. And getting stuck in the present moment will blind us to the need to think about the future.
If all we do is think about the future, we miss the blessings of the present moment.
There’s a story in the Old Testament book of Joshua about when the Israelites were getting ready to experience a miracle. They had to cross over the Jordan river. Joshua told the people the day before to “consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5).
The priests were informed that the minute those carrying the Ark of The Covenant stepped into the water, the “waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap” (Joshua 3:13). The people followed the priests into the water, but by the time they got there, they actually crossed through the middle of the river on dry ground. The water not only stopped, but the river bottom dried up, too. No muddy river bottom to deal with; dry ground. And once they had all crossed to the other side, the water began flowing again and the dry ground went back to mud.
When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “take up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan...and put them down at the place you stay tonight.” The purpose for the 12 stones? “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. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
In this one story, we see great appreciation for the present moment--the good sense to preserve the memory--so the future generation could look back and be encouraged to trust God for their futures. How often have we stopped long enough to make sure a move of God in the present moment will not be forgotten? That we won’t forget and and make sure a future generation does not forget either?
What is hanging on the walls of your home? What pictures linger in your mind? I doubt you have any photos of someone who deeply hurt you. I’ve never known anyone who framed the paperwork related to an arrest for a DUI. I’ve never seen a photo of an ex-wife or husband on display after the divorce is final.
It is my advice that we collect more “stones” that will serve as a reminder that God showed up, that someone in your life loved and cared for you, and something was accomplished that should not be forgotten.
Your “stones” may be more photos that remind you of your history. They may be objects large or small, highly valuable or of no material value, that remind you of someone who loved you, not necessarily perfectly, but in a way worth remembering.