The other day in church the following question was posed: Is your past a point of reference or a place of residency?
I may have missed the majority of the sermon due to ruminating thoughts about this question. As I considered it, I began recalling those times in my life that were significant turning points. Those so called “forks in the road”. Have I resided in some of those places or do I look at them as a point of reference, a point of God working His way?
That’s tough. I can immediately pick out the points of reference: college in Arizona, moving to Montana, Brazil, Kansas, Arkansas. I can also distinguish those places of residency, and those have been more difficult to grapple with: past broken relationships, Daniel’s diagnosis, hurtful words spoken to me.
Memorials in the Old Testament of the Bible tended to be places of reference, not residence. Jacob, as he was traveling, laid down one night and used a stone as a pillow. Not my first choice for my pillow, but hey, whatever works for the man! As he dreamt that night he saw a “stairway that reached from the earth up to the heaven” (Genesis 28:12). The Scripture goes on to detail what he saw at the top of the stairs and the promises that were spoken to him by the Lord. When he awoke he commented, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it…What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven” (Genesis 28:16, 17).
Now if I was Jacob and I was in the house of God, I wouldn’t want to leave! I’d set up residence there. Plop down my warm comforter and fluffy pillow (no rock for this weary head!), pitch my tent (okay….cabin), and never leave. I desire to be in the house of God and Jacob was there. He saw the very gateway to heaven! What an amazing moment in his life!
However, he is not like me. He did not set up camp there. He did not make that place his residence. Instead, he “took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar…” (Genesis 28:18). Afterwards he praised God, claimed the promises the Lord had spoken over him, and went on with his journey. That stone in Bethel was a place of reference. He did not make it his residence.
I could take a lesson from Jacob on this one. My past is meant to help provide a testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life. Even the crappy times. He is still faithful. Maybe instead of setting up residence in Daniel’s diagnosis, I need to use it as a point of reference, a memorial to God. And if I cannot learn from Jacob, maybe I should take note from Joshua.
“We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
Joshua didn’t live there at the Jordan River where God performed a miracle. He used it as a memorial, a place of reference.
So, I guess it’s time I do the same. It’s time I stop residing in the past, in the things I cannot change and start living with my eyes on this moment before me. God can take the pain of the past and use it for His glory. And someday maybe I can use it as a testimony of His faithfulness.
What about you? Are you residing in your past or is it a place of reference?