Joshua said to them, “Each of you take up a stone on his shoulder…that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.’” - Joshua 4:5-7
Helping a friend pack up his house, I am unforgiving. “Toss this. Give this away. You don’t have room!”
At 68, he is downsizing from his home of the last decade, and he has a lot of stuff. A team of neighbors has assembled to help him sort a lifetime of accumulation into piles labeled “keep,” “give away,” and “throw away.”
As the “keep” pile continues to grow, we push him to reconsider. He debates renting a second storage unit.
Traveling light is a young person’s game. Everything seems disposable when you’ve got time to replace it. I hear the disdain in the question from the Israelites’ children: “What do those stones mean to you?”
But the answer turns them around. A story of hardship. A story of liberation. A story of miraculous provision. The answer helps them understand their parents in a new way. It helps them understand themselves in a new way.
It might have been easier for my friend to release his things if I had asked about their stories. If he could have passed on the memories that made them precious to him. And perhaps I would have learned something of the God who has sustained him all these years.
Keeper of All Memory, make me curious about the stories my friends cling to.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.