Pressed Leaves, George Washington, and the Jordan River
“Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘what do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” – Joshua 4:6-7
I suppose every believer during their lifetime have had special moments when it seems as if God is speaking to them in a very clear and direct way. It might have been a moment when you were reading scripture, when a particular passage seemed to literally jump off the page and do so in a very real and personal way. Maybe it was during a special season of prayer. For me, many of these moments have occurred in special places of retreat. And when many of these “benchmark” moments have taken place, I have taken with me a momentum or sorts to serve as a reminder of what the Lord specifically taught me in that moment. For instance, pressed within the pages of my personal prayer journal is a beautiful leaf I picked off the ground after spending time with God in the woods one summer. Every time I see that leaf, I think about truths about the Christian faith God taught me that particular day. I also keep a seashell on my desk. I picked it up one morning while sitting on the sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico watching the sun rise. On that particular morning, God gave me divine direction when I needed it most. And as bizarre as it might seem, I keep a “train flattened” quarter pinned to the cork board over my desk. On a cold night in 1994, I placed it on a set of train tracks atop Alabama’s Sand Mountain and patiently waited for the train in the dark of the night. During my wait, I quietly talked with Lord about the purpose of life as I watched my warm breath clash with the crisp December air.
My daughter once asked me about the leaf. In that moment I was able to tell her about my time alone with God in the woods. Most recently we had a conversation about the quarter. I have come to the conclusion that such mementos are great conversation starters in pointing my children to Christ.
In our passage above, the Israelites had just crossed the Jordan River on dry land. After that miraculous event, God commanded His people to set up memorial stones. They were to be used as teaching tools and serve as a reminder to future generations of how God had directed His people on that particular day. This is not the only place in the Bible where God instructed His people to explain their spiritual heritage to their children. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God says, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” God’s people took God’s commandments very seriously, and literally wore portions of Scripture on their bodies. Phylacteries were little containers to put the scripture in on their forehead and left arm. They also attached a small container of Scripture called a mezuzah to the front door and on every door in the house. As people entered and exited the house, they would touch the mezuzah in a respectful way. Why did they do this? It was to remind them the importance of honoring God with their lives.
I am certainly not suggesting idol worship or promoting an unhealthy attachment to physical mementos. Nor am I suggesting that such memorials have some mystical power; for a leaf is just a leaf and a coin is just a piece of metal. I am simply suggesting that there is something beautiful in treasuring the benchmarks of your spiritual journey, and sharing them with your children in order to teach them about God.
– Pastor Eric