In America, we celebrate Memorial Day in honor of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting to establish and defend the freedom and liberties we enjoy in this country. It is a time to honor those who have served and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in such a great nation.
As Christians, the concept of memorials has an even deeper application. The physical and spiritual memorials we establish in our lives often serve as landmarks that can remind us of what God has done for us, for our families; and they fuel our faith to continue walking with God through whatever current challenges we may face.
In the Bible, the word that translates as “memorial” in English is used 24 times in 22 verses in the contexts of sacrificial offerings, celebrations, reminders and mementos. In Joshua chapter 4, after the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River on dry ground, we see Joshua give very poignant instructions:
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 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 4:4-7, NLT
This little excerpt perfectly captures the significant of memorials in our lives.
1. Memorials symbolize significant events. Are there certain things or places you associate with major experiences in your life? Traditionally we build monuments and mark grave sites to honor people or occasions that had a significant impact on our lives. Those events and the lives of those individuals are often marked by sacrifice. Spiritually speaking, it is important to memorialize God’s transformative work for and in us and revisit those places—even if just in prayer or in our mind’s eye—often to honor and cherish those moments and to preserve their impact on us.
2. Memorials help us remember what’s important. On any given day, there are millions of things on our minds. It’s easy to forget the items on today’s to-do list, even more so something that happened a long time ago. Memorials give us pause and a fresh reminder of what’s important as we get chronologically farther removed from those transformative moments.
3. Memorials inspire our future. As time goes on, it’s important to remember and celebrate where we’ve come from. Recalling the pivotal moments in our personal, family, cultural and global histories empowers us to learn from the past and to pursue a brighter future. Future generations that haven’t lived through some of our transformative spiritual experiences can look to our memorials to guide their own walks with God and pursue their own paths led by Him. Reflecting on the momentous occasions of the past allows us to celebrate the present and anticipate a promising future.
Today we honor those who have served our country to afford us the liberties we enjoy as Americans. We should also take some time today to reflect on the memorials and landmarks in our spiritual lives—those moments, places, or people that have shaped us spiritually—and express our appreciation for the opportunity to live out our faith freely and continue pursuing God’s will and purpose for our lives.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!