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  • Writer's pictureDr. Garrett Prevo

MONUMENTS of FAITHFULNESS: Look For Them!


Last summer I was fortunate to spend a couple of days in our nation’s capital for a work trip. It was my first time experiencing DC, and I didn’t have much time. I wanted to make sure I saw as much as I could in the short amount of time I had. By the way, you better be prepared to do some walking if you are going to see all there is to see. I was fascinated by many of the monuments and the history they represent.

 

Monuments are built to help us remember something or someone from the past. They commemorate a special event or honor a significant individual. As we consider the history of our nation, there are many occasions and people we have honored with monuments. The practice of commemorating has gone on for ages. Let’s take a look at a monument erected in approximately 1400 BC.

Chapters 3 and 4 in the Book of Joshua tell the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. The Jordan stood as the final barrier between 40 years of wandering in the desert and the land God had promised them. I can only imagine the level of exhaustion the Israelites were feeling. It was a grind for survival every day. For those born during the wandering, it was all they knew. In fact, they likely heard the grumbling about how much better things were in Egypt and how they should have stayed there as servants. Joshua 3:15 tells us that the Jordan was at flood stage, a raging river. I am guessing there were many who thought, “Well, this is it. Guess we’re stuck right here for the rest of our lives.” Perhaps others thought, “We’ve come all this way to just drown in the Jordan!”

 

However, God had a plan, and He let Joshua in on it. In fact, He chose Joshua to help execute the plan. God was with Joshua, and He was with the Israelites. You know the story. The priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant led the way. When they reached the Jordan and dipped their toes in the river, the miracle occurred. The rushing water from the flooding Jordan stopped. Scripture says, “…it piled up in a heap a great distance away” (Joshua 3:16). The priests stopped in the middle of the Jordan while all of Israel crossed over on dry ground. Cue the flashbacks to the parting of the Red Sea.

 

The story goes on in Chapter 4 to describe how the Lord directed Joshua to pull stones from the Jordan River. Twelve men gathered stones from right where the Levitical priests had been holding the Ark of the Covenant. Then, near the banks of the river that had once been the final barrier to them entering the Promised Land, the people of Israel built a monument.

 

Once it was erected Joshua blessed the monument. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:21-23).

 

The monument of 12 stones commemorated the miracle God had done. It served as a continual reminder of God's faithfulness. No doubt that moment was an anchor of faith for the people who saw it that day. I strongly suspect that monument reassured the faith of generations to come.

 

This morning in church we sang the song This Is Our God by Phil Wickam. Two lines of that song really hit me hard. “Now those altars in the wilderness tell the story of his faithfulness.” That’s what the pillar of rocks near the bank of the Jordan did. They reminded the people of the faithfulness of God. “Never once did He fail, and He never will! This is our God!”

 

My mind went to the times in my life when I was backed up against the Red Sea with an army pursuing. There have been times in my past when my life was in shambles. Those experiences felt like hell on earth. Now, as I look back on those times, I realize they are monuments of God’s faithfulness! I am so thankful He showed up! I am so grateful He saw me through those challenging, gut-wrenching times. God is faithful!

 

Tough times are powerful monuments of God’s faithfulness in my life. However, there are also mountaintop moments in my life that serve as monuments to the goodness and faithfulness of God. I think about the day I married my beautiful wife. I think about the days my children were born. I think about the times in the stillness of God’s creation when I stood in awe of His creation. In each of these moments, and in countless others, I am reminded that God has blessed me so much. He chose to love and bless a sinner like me. Those memories are monuments to the love and faithfulness of God.

 

I am guessing you, too, have some monuments in your past that remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life. In hindsight, you can see the hand of a loving God all over particular situations. These moments remind us of how blessed we are. So how does all this apply to our role as educators?

 

This business is tough! Our calling to education demands so much of us. It demands a great deal of our time. It demands a lot of us mentally and emotionally. It demands that we pour ourselves out in the service of children. And we do it! We do it because we love kids and are called to serve them. However, I think it's also okay to acknowledge that our calling is really hard. In fact, at times it may feel like we are wandering in the desert with little hope of anything ever getting better.

 

When it gets like that for you, how do you refocus? How do you reset? How do you find the energy and the drive to press on? Look for your monuments! I guarantee you have monuments from your time with students. Perhaps you’ve never thought of it like that, but there have been moments in your career that God showed up. There have been times in your career when a breakthrough finally occurred with a student, a breakthrough you weren't sure would ever come.

 

Do you remember that student you thought you would never reach? Do you recall his hard shell, seemingly impenetrable, built up through years of struggle? Despite the challenge you kept loving him, and it finally happened. You broke through the shell and had a moment of genuine connection. You saw the lightbulb come on and a smile flash across the student’s face. That was the moment when this challenging student finally understood how much you loved him and cared for him. That is a monument moment.

 

Monuments in education are not only created through our dealings with children. Sometimes they come from our interactions with adults. Do you remember that time when your colleague came into your classroom, and was a total mess? You listened. You guided. You encouraged. You helped a fellow educator reconnect to the significance of his mission. That is a monument moment.


Never forget the times when you thought, “This is why I do this!” Those are your monuments! Pile up some stones in your mind! Set up a pillar of stones to commemorate those moments! Those monument moments are the ones you can look back on when times are tough. In those times of reflection, you will recall that God has been faithful in your past. God has shown up. God has used you to make a difference in the lives of those around you.

 

Joshua directed the Israelites to tell the future generations about those rocks piled up near the Jordan. He directed them to teach their children about the time God showed up, did a miracle, and delivered them to the promised land.  Your monument moments should be shared, as well.

 

Monuments remind us and inspire us. Your testimony will serve as a reminder to your colleagues that God is faithful and that our work matters both in the moment and in the eternal. Monuments also inspire us to keep pressing on in the midst of challenging times. God showed up then, and He will show up in the future. Your work with students is important. Your investments are significant. Your love is valuable. Let your monuments remind you of this and encourage you to keep investing, keep caring, and keep loving.

 

 

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