So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:7
Every few days, someone posts a picture of a stone with a word of encouragement painted on it placed along a street or trail. I’ve been on the lookout for one. This week, a neighbor installed a whole garden of painted stones – rainbows, thank you’s, stones with FDNY and NYPD, medical symbols, pretty pictures.
Truly – an art garden to cheer the passerby in this stress-filled time of pandemic.
It reminded me that I have a jar of painted stones, given as a gift in 2007 by a table of women in the Women’s Bible Class. I took it down from the shelf and looked at the verses they had painted along with their names. Such a variety of beautiful rocks! Such a variety of encouraging verses!
As I looked at each one and the names of the women, one especially struck me. Dorothy White. Sweet and amazing Dorothy! A come-back lady! Eyes damaged by a childhood disease, titanium hips, aortic valve replaced, cornea transplants, surgical steel in her spine and a battle with cancer – nothing seemed to dim her faith or keep her down. Dorothy became a single mom when her husband abandoned her. She raised five children and started a new career in her 50’s. She led a Bible class table of women and a group of Pioneer Girls. She was a prayer warrior. Mostly, she was a friend.
Holding her stone in my hand, my thoughts went to her home-going and her memorial service in 2013 and brought one of the most devastating aspects of the coronavirus pandemic to my mind. Death, sudden and terrible and everywhere. No opportunity for loved ones to be at the side of the suffering. No funerals. No flowers. No graveside service.
Anxiety about this dark reality has churned in my soul pushing out hope and joy. Death of a loved one is shattering, but under these circumstances – cruel.
Surprisingly, the stone in my hand put a sudden comforting perspective on it. When I thought of Dorothy, my remembrance was of her life – the way she dressed up to make every occasion feel special, the charm of her home, her smile, her wisdom. Her perseverance in physical suffering. Her faithfulness to fellowship and to the Word. I barely remember her last hard days or even what was shared at her memorial service. I remember how she lived.
It’s not the death we die. We really have no control of that. It’s the life we live. It’s who we love and touch and reach for Christ. It’s what we value – what we live for. It’s how we love and obey the Word. It’s how we glorify God and shine His light. As Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 Dorothy did that.
I put her stone back in the jar and the burden of fear and dread and loathing lifted, swept away by truth…
- For believers, the Word assures us that, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:13 Precious – carefully guarded. Carefully watched over. The familiar words of Psalm 23 further comfort – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” The believer is not alone passing into glory.
- Each life lost during this time is not a statistic, but a precious one worthy of every tear shed, every ounce of grief we bear. Reaching out to those who have losses is important and healing.
- There are great efforts being made by those tending to the very ill to help them feel that they are not alone, that they are not a statistic. Connecting them to their families through FaceTime, speaking words of comfort, easing their fears, holding their hands, using every means to show respect. Read one account HERE
The Israelites piled up stones so they and their children would remember the miracle of the Jordan drying up for them to pass over to the Promise Land. Remembering is critical to our faith. Jesus broke bread and shared the cup and told us to do the same so we would remember the MOST dreadful death of all time – His death by crucifixion for our sins. We will have the beautiful experience of sharing communion during the service this Sunday. In light of the awful realities around us, let us remember together the cost and the gift of our salvation.
And the verse on Dorothy’s rock?
Let’s do it.