Back to Posts
Jun 4, 2018

Stones on the Jordan: What Do Memorials Mean to You?

Sarah Christmyer

heart-rockIf you look closely, the rock among the hosta in my garden is shaped like a heart.

Brought to me by a neighbor eighteen years ago, it stands as a memorial to God’s healing power.

I never thought we could forget the months our son lay in the hospital, too young to know his heart wasn’t right or that breathing could be easy. But we do forget some days. Or at least we don’t think about it much, now that he is strong and healthy, graduating high school.

It’s easy to forget how good God is, how strong he is on our behalf.

12 Stones by the River

God knew this about us when he commanded Joshua to assemble twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan River, and set another twelve as a monument at Gilgal when they’d passed over (see Joshua 3-4). The children of Israel were forty years beyond the Red Sea crossing and none but Joshua and Caleb could remember that great day.

Now, as they entered the Promised Land, the Jordan was at flood stage. But this time, instead of fleeing an enemy, they were crossing over to meet one.

God split the waters as though to say, See? I’m the same God today! Follow me and I will guide you, and I will drive out your enemies before you.

The people crossed over on dry land and from the spot where the priests stood in the riverbed, holding the Ark of the Covenant, they pulled stones representing each tribe. Twelve to stand in the river, an annual witness when the waters receded in the dry season; and twelve as a witness on land.

Years later, that pile of smooth river rock at Gilgal would excite curiosity among their children. “What do these stones mean?” they would ask.

And that was the purpose for the pile.

Not just to remind those who experienced the miracle, but to witness to God’s power in the future. To create an opportunity for later generations to say to their children and their neighbors: our God is great.

Where Is Your Rock Pile?

Whenever I weed my garden, the “heart rock” triggers my memory. But more importantly—when I show off the plants around it, I can’t help but tell the story: that for months we did not know our son would live; that one Sunday our priest called us to stand at Mass and he prayed for him—and from that day, he began to heal.

“I remember that,” says my neighbor. “I always wondered how you could be so calm.”

“Without God, I could not,” I say.

The rock draws out my witness, gives me an occasion to speak of God’s power and strength, of his comfort.

When God acts powerfully in your life, set up a stone of remembrance.

It doesn’t need to be a literal stone, you can plant a tree or make a quilt, place a memento on a shelf. Put something that represents the occasion where others can see it.

Talk about it to your children. Let them know that the same God who carried Israel across the Red Sea and the Jordan is alive today and can be known and trusted and turned to in times of trouble.

This article was first published on The Great Adventure Blog June 5, 2014. 

You May Also Like:

Was John the Baptist a Reincarnation of Elijah?

Sealed in the Spirit: Relying on the Graces of Baptism and Confirmation

Does God Command Evil Acts in the Bible?