I am in a thoughtful mood today and I should be.
I had another birthday recently and I turned 49. You can never know what a year will hold and for me, the last twelve months held three unexpected funerals and my daughter’s engagement. And for added poignancy, by turning 49 I have now outlived a parent.
I believe that one of the characteristics of the careful life we read about in Ephesians 5 is that it is a reflective life. That is because some moments are more important than others.
In Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 it says, ‘It is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting because that is where will all end up some day.’
This might seem a very strange thought. I can think of quite a few things I would rather do than hang out at funerals! But there is so much truth here. Funerals remind us that life is very precious and short and if we allow them they will recalibrate our priorities. The reality of death turns our eyes upward to things that are eternal and reminds us that so much of what we worry about really doesn’t matter in the long run.
Equally, milestones in our children’s lives are opportunities for gratefulness and appreciation. The bittersweet feeling of marrying off your daughter or taking your child to school for the first time reminds us to enjoy each stage of parenting and not to wish it away. It gives moms (and dads!) an opportunity to let go a little more and to move into the next season with a new level of trust in God.
In the Old Testament, we see how the children of Israel built altars to remind them of significant things God did for them. We can do the same. When something significant happens in our lives we can take the opportunity to reflect and learn.
Our model for this is in the Psalms where we see David pouring out his disappointment and hurt in the presence of God.
Very often, within the next few verses, we see him move from despair to hope again as He is ministered to by God’s presence and God’s truth.
David shows us that we were never created to live in a state of confusion or bewilderment. These times of struggle are meant to be temporary teachers.
When big events happen to us, whether happy or sad, we can safely process them in His presence and in the light of the truth of His Word.
Then we can somewhere, somehow build an altar.
The altars I build are pages of journals filled with pencil and pen scribbles that remind me of things I have learned in dark times and in bright, happy ones. I record verses that have sustained me, words I receive from the Lord as well as my prayers and thoughts. They are my own kind of Psalms as I have journeyed from despair to joy over and over again.
Think about ways that you can create altars of remembrance to God’s faithfulness.
If writing isn’t your thing, scrapbooks with sketches and verses or photographs with dates and thoughts added are both beautiful ways to remember desert manna.
Bulletin boards, notebooks and artwork can all be ways to collect personal revelation before it blows away.
Living carefully means recognizing significant moments in our lives, seeing the lessons in them, recording God’s faithfulness and moving on in His grace.