My Life's Stories
When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” . . . And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ . . .so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” ~Joshua 4:1-24 (ESV)
This passage from Joshua first stood out to me in 2007 when I was preparing an interactive lesson for a high school spiritual retreat my husband and I were leading. The objective was to help students have practical ways to pray, record their life’s story, and build a set of mini-testimony stories to be able to see God’s involvement in their lives. In recent years, this passage has come back to me time and time again as I have struggled to understand my role and purpose in the midst of the transition from one address to the next, from one parenting season to the next, through vocational adjustments, and the birthing of new visions for writing and ministry.
If I am honest, transitions and change shake me up, making my vision blurry. Kind of like when a child takes a bottle that contains water, puts sand in it and shakes it up. I like predictability and stability. If you are an ISFJ, you know what I mean. But because transition has become almost a normal part of my life over the past seven years, I have had the great opportunity to learn a few things about myself, God and how to thrive in the in-between times. I prefer the beginnings and destinations, don’t get me wrong. But I have learned it is possible to keep moving forward when the destination is unclear, and a beginning point not defined.
What I have found, and I pray the coming posts help you to discover too, is that looking back, remembering and recording my life’s story and all that God has done in my life through the years, inspires me, brings me hope, and most of all plants my feet on a trust that is unwavering. If God was faithful then, he will be faithful again. If God used a hard time to grow me then, he will use my current rock-bottom moment to build me up again. If God protected me then, he will do it again. If God called me, gifted me, and equipped me to for impact then, he is still doing so now.
So, I don’t need to fear the in-between. I don’t need to stand still in the unknown. I need to press into remembering, believing and pursuing understanding how the past and present are speaking to me of God’s plans for me, even in the in-between.
Last week, I had the privilege and honor to share my testimony at our Wednesday night church service. This year, instead of doing a Bible study or DVD series of teachings, our churches members took turns sharing their testimonies. Every Wednesday night for nine months we have been absorbing the stories of the people we sit next to each week, yet often times have no idea of the journey they have been on in the past or present.
In my 37-years of life in the church, I am not sure if I have experienced a more encouraging year of Wednesday night services. The rawness, brokenness, grace, and redemption that penetrated through the circumstances of my fellow brothers’ and sisters’ stories has built my faith and trust in God in immeasurable ways.
As I was preparing my testimony (which will roll out slowly in coming posts), I was again reminded of the 12 stones in Joshua 4. In fact, this passage helped me to organize my testimony into 12-mini stories or stones--each one intended to reveal a specific truth or promise of God that I had experienced. Narrowing down all of life into 12 snapshots seemed a bit daunting at first, but when I combined this strategy with the Pixar Storytelling method I learned about a few months ago, it was actually really fun to get up early each morning for four days in a row and record the story of my life and walk with God.
Yet, when I was finished setting up (revised, refined, and edited) my stones--the most memorably impactful moments of my life--I began to think over the greater purpose of these stories. In my processing, I was reminded that most of life happens in the between times of the moments we actually remember. Just like there are gaps between each stone in a vase filled with rocks, there are gaps between the stories I shared. Those mundane, simple, and ordinary times are often left unrecognized and unrecorded. I wondered what God’s purpose is in those moments too. And in my wondering, I considered that perhaps they are there to leave spaces for grace, healing, maturity and hope to come in and fill.
Perhaps, the Holy Spirit's daily presence is like water, pouring over all of the moments of my life. Everyday unseen but present and at work. And just as water poured over stones in a vase fills in the gaps, the Spirit’s grace and power are poured into me during these gap moments--the mornings spent in the Word, the worship songs sung in the kitchen, the prayers said with our children before bed. In these simple moments, He is filling the empty places, because the times and moments left unseen and unremembered are not unseen or unremembered by Him.
In fact, they are the fillers of all of our lives. And these are the moments that most of life are made of. It is in these spaces that growth takes place and the strength and perspective for the bigger moments is established. And as the Spirit pours into us and more stones are added the stories of our lives, the water rises--the Spirit's grace and power expanding, sovereignty and love filling in the gaps and hope rising, like the water. Until one day, it is overflowing, and making the contents of the vessel ready to be poured out as an offering and a cup of fresh water to those who need to hear, see and believe the God of her story is mighty to save.
With this image in mind, I can see how our testimony is our greatest tool in sharing the Gospel, bringing hope to the world, and seeing that God has filled us up to pour Him out. We are a forgetful people, just like the Israelites. And just like them, we are called to set up stones (stories) that create a monument for the generations to follow to see and in the seeing remember and believe their God, our God saves.
In the coming weeks, as the stones of my testimony roll out here, I pray that you can see the following through them:
Stay tuned for the rest of my story. . .