The air was cold and damp; very typical for mid-February. Mud was caked under my fingernails and my teeth were chattering. Carrying a handful of stones, I walked back towards my home and found a place to kneel outside with my armful of stones. Less than an hour later, I had built an alter.
All throughout Scripture, we can find alters being built and set up as memorials of remembrance. Noah build an alter. Abraham build an alter. Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David - they all built an alter. Four years ago when my marriage was under attack, I built an alter too. After setting up my stones, one of top of another, I thanked God for what I was convinced He would do. I did my absolute best to place everything I cared for on that alter and I did my best to let go but, if I'm being honest, I picked it all back up an embarrassing number of times. Sometimes I would go outside, stand by my heap of stones and look up at the sky as if to say, "Hello? God... remember this alter I built? I'm still waiting for the miracle."
The miracle I hoped for didn't come and two years later I gathered my alter and packed it in my car along with every possession that was still mine and I drove away to a new life.
However, the alter is still standing. In fact, it's grown. As God provided manna each day and somehow dried up what would have otherwise drowned me, stones have been added to give a testimony to the God who still delivers His people. Our prayers may not always result in us getting what we want, but if we will keep praying and knocking and seeking, we will find that God is greater and better than anything or anyone we thought we wanted.
Today, we are in the throes of a historical moment in history. COVID-19 has radically changed our way of life and a good percentage of the world is in a state of panic. Looking around, my thoughts can't help but go back to the alter.
Going through the Word of God, we learn that it was only a few days after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea that the children of Israel grumbled and complained about what they lacked - completely forgetting about the God who had defended them and freed them from the most powerful nation of that time. Even after feeding the Israelites in the wilderness and providing for their every need, the children of Israel kept forgetting the goodness and care of God. Through the book of Numbers and through the book of Joshua and into the book of Judges, we see it continue. The people of God were prone to forget, prone to wander away and prone to distrust the only One who is always faithful and true. We are no different. I can too easily forget that the God who met me in my own captivity and set me free is the same God who is with me right now - still ready to rescue, still eager to commune with me, still faithful in mercy and love. Today, in the middle of a global crisis, God's people are, once again, prone to forget who their God is. That doesn't mean we need to take everything lightly, but it does mean that a deep peace should be settled in our hearts because - and only because - we know who is in control.
God told His people to build an alter of remembrance not only for their own sake but also for the sake of their children. One day my kids are going to look at the memorial set up and ask me what it means. Then I will be able to share with them all the times God was faithful when I was not; all the times He was working when I was asleep; all the times He had us in His hands. I will be able to tell them that these stones are to remind us of the time God answered that prayer; these stones are to remind us of the time He set us free; these stones are to remind us of when He made a way when there was no way. Though at first glance it may appear to be insignificant - it's just a bunch of rocks, after all - it most definitely is no light thing to give an account for all that God has done.
Woman of God, build an alter to the Lord. People of God, set up a memorial for the Lord. However you do it, do something to make sure you will not forget God. On days like today when the whole world is full of emotions, it is necessary that we are steadfast and confident in God's promise to do all things well. So in the chaos of change and in all the uncertainty that may lie ahead, one thing is sure - He is worthy of our praise and our trust. Be intentional and do not forget His benefits, His deliverance, His kindness or His love. No matter what comes, what goes, what happens or what doesn't happen at all, God is still on His throne as the anchor of hope and the only One worthy of our complete confidence.