I laid on the blue Persian rug in our living room, and my husband sat nearby in our funky green chair. He was finishing preparing a Bible study for the students in our church, talking through his main points while we rested on a Saturday afternoon.
We were momentarily stuck, attempting to navigate the transformation of big picture topics into middle-school language. How do we explain that God has provided, is providing, and will always provide in a way that makes sense to a twelve-year old?
I was lost in thought, gazing absentmindedly around our house, and I began laughing.
“Look around,” I told him, propping myself up on my elbows and nodding at different items around the room, “Our home basically explains that by itself- I think we purchased less than five pieces of furniture in our entire house.”
The next night, he stood in that same space, and explained to the students that our house is a living testimony that God is the Provider.
Way back when, we prayed for housing in a certain price point, with a certain number of rooms, and then there it was, waiting for us humbly on Craigslist at exactly the right time. But God providing didn’t stop there.
This dining room table was free, he pointed.
These chairs were a gift.
This console was a gift.
This desk was free.
This couch we did purchase (at a fantastic price), and the owner also gave us our coffee table and these two lamps for free.
My husband then looked down at his clothes and said everything from his t-shirt to his shoes was either given to him or bought on crazy sale, at a time in our lives when we really, really needed things to be free or on crazy sale.
I watched the students look around in awe at our living room as my husband pointed from item to item to item, proclaiming the goodness of God. Seeing helped them understand, helped make it real, and hearing us declare our genuine thankfulness made their eyes grow three sizes wider in wonder.
Can God really provide? They seemed to ask in their expressions.
Yes. Yes, he can, our living room replied.
I knew a man who kept a journal with his wife on their coffee table. They wrote down their prayers, and then when what they asked for was answered, they would go back and write the date and the story of how their prayer came to earthly reality.
“It’s so we remember,” he told me and four other college students, and we looked in awe at him the same way those students gazed at my husband in my living room, years later.
“Because if we don’t remind ourselves of what God has done, we forget.”
Of course this is true. All throughout the Old Testament, there is a concept of an ebenezer, defined as “a commemoration of divine assistance.” This word comes from a story in 1 Samuel when the Israelites are about to be attacked by a neighboring group, so Samuel calls out to the Lord, who comes and rescues them. He then places a stone between two cities and declares that this is the place where the Lord has helped them.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built altars, and so did Moses, all to mark a moment of importance, a moment of a promise or certainty of God’s triumph. And all of these altars were built in hopes that someday, thousands of years later, we would remember.
When we built altars or create ebenezers, when we intentionally remember, we are entering this thousand year old story, telling the next generation what the Lord has done. We pass on not just the idea of a God who saves, but proof of a living God, who most certainly does save.
Beyond just our furniture, the Lord has provided for us in countless ways. My husband and I are both working and paying cash to go to graduate school, and yet we have never lacked the funds for our education. There have been semesters where we have paid fully out of pocket, and we had enough to spare, and semesters when that would be impossible, and right on time, a check arrives. A scholarship, or even in one case, an anonymous donation, from someone who the Lord moved to fill our need without even knowing how desperately we needed it.
And in other ways, too, even more personal to us: I watched the Lord transform my husband, from a person stuck in depression and anxiety to a man overflowing with thankfulness and joy. I have memories of painful but beautiful seasons where I was transformed, confronted with my own pride. Moments where the Lord did a beautiful work in me, overcoming the sins of comparison, or the idol of my body.
And yet, as a woman who her leaves behind her water bottle in every place she visits, if I don’t consistently, intentionally remember these instances, I forget them. I find myself worried about how we will pay for school this semester, or I reread my journal and discover how many of my words are about wondering if the Lord will provide for this need or that need.
I have to be reminded of these instances of God’s ever-present provision and faithfulness, to talk about them with other people. Reading my Bible and remembering how the Lord has come since the beginning helps, but I’m convinced by Old Testament’s example that the altar-building shouldn’t stop just because the scriptures are bound and printed. I need to hear stories of the Lord coming to the help of my friends and family in times when it was desperately needed, and I need to share my own stories of these occurrences. I need stories of a God moving then, and now to continue to proclaim a story of God’s faithfulness in my life, today and forevermore.
But I will never tell the stories I don’t remember.
So we print pictures, lots of them, and we hang them to remind us of that moment, of that trip, of that word that God said, of that work that he did. We have a centerpiece from our wedding displayed on a bookshelf to remind us of the joy of that season, and how massively God moved to bring my husband and I together in matrimony. We have paintings from places we have been together, time and lessons and fullness captured in a brushstroke.
We say aloud stories that come to us, memories, and we set aside objects to ensure that our memories will be jogged. Around us, in our very home, we have made our own ebenezer, a life that points us back to the goodness of God. A life that reminds us that we are part of a greater story, and that his work and His love didn’t end the moment the scriptures were deemed complete, but that my own life and my stories will continue to spread the love of God into the next generation.
“He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know him… we will not hide them from our children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”