Stone Memorials

Have you ever stacked up one of those little stone memorials? My family likes to do this as an act of worship; a way to remember what God has done in our lives to get us to this point. We stacked our most recent memorial about a year ago in a rainforest in Puerto Rico.

The practice of stacking the stones is a bit of an art. It requires patience, alignment, re-alignment, and persistence, especially when they don’t want to stand up. The stones must have the right shape and texture, and each one must be centered on the one before it. If one stone gets off-center, the next one will too, and eventually, the whole tower will begin to lean and fall to the ground. The order of the stones also matters. A middle rock might not work for the bottom, or the second one might topple from the top.

Some of my favorite stone memorials are the ones that made no sense as to why they remained standing. The builder stacked it in such a way that it managed to stay upright.  I think our lives are a bit like this too. God hands us rock and asks us to stack it without it making much sense. He gives us the odd-shaped one for the bottom, the ragged ones for the middle, and a long, skinny one for the top. It may take a few tries to keep it standing, but when we take a step back to look at the whole structure, somehow, it just works.

I am learning that memorials are as much about the present and future as they are about the past. In the book of Joshua, when God commands the Israelites to build a stacked stone memorial, there are three distinct parts:

  • First, the Israelites are told to gather rocks from where they just came.
  • Next, they are told to bring the stones to where they are presently.
  • Finally, he gives them instructions for the future.

“Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” -Joshua 4:5-7

So far in 2020, God has handed us a bunch of stones that don’t make sense: sickness, death, closed economy, more racism, riots, strained family relationships, heartache, and we are only halfway through the year. I’ll be the first to admit, I want no part of any of these things, and it’s brought up a bunch of crap within my own heart. These are not the stones I would choose for my memorial. Yet, they are the ones He's put before us. We have to take time, examine the stones for what they are, and pray that God will put each one in its perfect place. 

When we take our rocks of remembrance, what we’ve learned so far, and place them together on this side of the river, what we are currently learning, there will come a day when our children’s children will ask, “what do the stones mean?” And we can be confident in our answer:

“God brought us through to the other side, and we are better for it.”

  • What is one thing you have learned about God or your relationship with Him this year?
  • What is happening right now that God is asking you to sit with or wade into?
  • What do you hope to share with others when you have entered the next season?

*If you don't have stones to stack and want something to put in your garden or on your patio, here is something that might work.


JL McCarthy

June 2, 2020