As a child growing up in Southern Arizona, I didn’t measure distance to road trip destinations by mile markers and mileage signs. Instead, I and my siblings gauged “how much further” by billboards and landmarks.
For miles, we would see billboards for “The Thing,” a local tourist attraction located between Benson and Wilcox on I-10. My parents never stopped. Finally, when I brought my new husband to Arizona for the first time, I coerced him to stop. It was nothing more than a large curio shop! (No we didn’t pay the dollar to enter the museum to see what The Thing was!)
Nearby Texas Canyon was far more memorable. No side roads or hiking trails go into this beautiful canyon. The most you’ll ever see of Texas Canyon is at the I-10 rest stop where the perfectly balanced rocks, worn soft by time and weather, look like they can tumble on top of your car at any second. Yet they endure in perfect, stunning formation. It used to be a crime in Arizona to remove rocks or cactus from an environment, but I think a few child-sized handfuls made it to the back of our car. I wanted to remember beautiful Texas Canyon!
Hind’s Feet in High Places
In the Christian classic, “Hind’s Feet in High Places,” Much Afraid marks her miles toward the destination of the High Places by selecting rocks that commemorate the harder lessons she learns and the times when her beloved Chief Shepherd displayd His faithfulness. At one crucial low point, she deposits the rocks on the ground and remembers the significance of each one; how each memory moment helped her stay faithful to the Shepherd.
I resonate with Much-Afraid. Too often I’m like the person the book of James describes in James 1:23,24, the one who looks at a mirror and then walks away, forgetting what they saw, I hear what God’s Word says to me, I see how He does great and mighty things – and then I forget the next time. I need some memory prompts – whether visual, audio, or interactive, to solidify the lesson God wants me to learn.
God did that for Abraham. God selected Abraham as the Patriarch of the promise; the promise that God, through Abraham’s lineage, would bring the world back to himself. That sounded incredulous, no, impossible. Abraham was old. His wife was old. He lived in a foreign country and owned no property. It took Abraham a lifetime to develop that mature faith that brought him to the point of belief that God could do anything, anything, to accomplish his greater purposes, even if it was beyond the scope of the nature of things.
God was so patient with Abraham. He didn’t throw all the details at Abraham at the beginning. Instead, God painted the broader outline of his plan, then filled in the details throughout Abraham’s life. He gave Abraham a chance to grow in his faith, little by little, so he would be ready to accept the next part of the plan.
These weren’t verbal promises either. Along the way, God packages his promises with certain symbols representing God’ s greater purposes:
What were those markers?
- New land: The homeland of the Jews was in itself a picture of something permanent as expressed in Hebrews 11.
- Stars in the sky: A stunning visual symbol of how many descendants Abraham would eventually be able to claim.
- The smoking pot/flaming torch: a powerful image that said in no uncertain terms that God would keep His part of the covenant agreement..
- Name change: Abram’s name, which meant father, would become Abraham, father of man nations. Sarai—an endearment that meant princess—would become Sarah, exalted princess. What an elevation. Just think! Every time they heard their names, they would think of those soul-tingling promises of what God intended to do with their lives and legacy!
- Ceremony of circumcision: Throughout multiple generations, a man would look down at himself and remember that he bore a mark on his body that he was to belong to the Lord God Almighty. He could choose to ignore that mark and reject God, but the mark would always be there, reminding him of his heritage.
I have this mental picture of Abraham, huddled over his treasure of memories shortly before Sarah gave birth to Isaac. It’s like any of us in our lives, stopping to review to profound moments we’ve had with God. What comes to our minds? The mental images. The sights, sounds, and scents of God’s presence and word.
I’ve had those moments. I talk about some of those in my book, “With Fresh Eyes:”
- The moments alone in a hospital dressing room where the Sprit of God reassured me that God was not done with me yet.
- My own first encounter with a star-studded sky, when at age 55 when I became convinced of the power of God to create an unlimited universe.
- Another look into the sky to see two lines of snow geese flying directly over my head after I asked God for a closer look at the geese, and the overwhelming awareness that he cared enough about one single human being to alter the course of nature for over 1,000 geese.
God gives us markers so we remember. See. Hear. Do. They all super-glue the message into our brains of His existence and encouragement, His power and His promise.
God does that in Scripture as well.
Throughout the Bible, God uses imagery to communicate His message to us. Logical, straight forward words aren’t enough. God is so intent to communicate His message to us, He will use anything He can to get our attention. That means taking the lofty concepts of the heavenlies and connecting them with the earthly ordinary things we see every day. That’s why:
- Jesus told parables.
- God established holidays like Passover and the feast of Booths.
- Jesus gave us commemorations like Communion and baptism.
He did these things so we never forget. So we understand and connect with what He wants us to know.
Each imagery is like a love note that we can hold in our hands and read over and over. The message: “I Am His and He Is Mine!”
Let’s join Him.
What would help you remember God’s promises or lessons? Here’s a starting list for you.
- Collect mementos in a treasure pouch like Much-Afraid did.
- Create bible verse memes to post on your computer or bathroom mirror.
- Find songs that put Bible verses to song.
- Journal about your special moments with God,
- Purchase a memento at the time when your overcame a life obstacle (I bought a beautiful tiered white skirt the first shopping trip after my husband’s spinal fusion surgery. It reminds me every time I wear it that God and I overcame!)
- Create a wall of remembrance that your mind titles “See What God has done.”
God gave Abraham moments to strengthen his memory and his faith. We can do the same. If God will do anything he can to communicate His wisdom to us, isn’t it worth our effort to do whatever it takes to not forget His message?