Show and tell
Tucked away in the Old Testament, in the book of Joshua, is a little account of a pile of stones: So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them,
‘Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.
Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.’ And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the LORD told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there.' [Joshua 4:4-8]
Let this be a sign to you so that when your children ask,
‘What do those stones mean to you?’ you can say to them…
If you are a parent or Nursery school teacher, you will recall the weekly highlight for the children was ‘Show and tell;’ an opportunity to share something special or personal to them with their classmates. Their excitement was contagious as their little minds considered what item they would take to school to 'show and tell' their peers and teacher about.
I think this was God’s inspired intent at the crossing of the Jordan.
The pile of stones was to be the Israelites’ ‘show and tell;’ for themselves, their children, future generations and neighbouring peoples.
A memorial to tell of God’s faithfulness to them as His chosen people. To be reminded of the God who chose them and rescued them. A story to tell their children when asked. A reminder when their footprints were erased.
God knew they would forget, so He told them to build a pile of stones to be a reminder of the God who never forgets His people.
If we have been saved and rescued by God through Christ’s atoning work on the cross, then we have a story to tell. Unless we build our own memorial pile of stones, our own personal ‘show and tell,’ we are likely to forget, and memory loss leads to doubt and fear and wandering in the desert.
Our stories may not contain Jordan crossing moments, but any telling of the ongoing small acts of God’s faithfulness to us makes God big.
Tell your story...
Some of us are reluctant story-tellers. We think our stories and our experiences are insignificant. And yet, our stories are not supposed to be impressive. They are not supposed to illustrate our faithfulness.
Our stories are a tribute to God’s faithfulness to us in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the everyday. When we tell our story, and the main character is God and the evidences of His faithfulness in our life, His personal glory is put on grand display and we are able to make Him beautiful to those who are listening.
Our stories are opportunities for our words to point others to the only living and true Word.
Consider Naaman: I am sure that every time he took a trip for military duties and passed the infamous Jordan River, his memory of that day when he was told to wash seven times would come flooding back into his mind. I am guessing whichever battalion accompanied him would have to stop and hear his story and song of praise and worship to God who washed not only his leprous skin clean, but cleansed his filthy heart.
Consider Hannah: I am sure that every year as she carefully and lovingly stitched the little garment to take to her son, Samuel, at the temple, her neighbours would ask her about it. I am guessing her eyes would fill with tears as she remembered her sobbing in that temple for that son and would tell her story of how God graciously remembered her and His faithfulness to her.
Consider Ruth: I am sure that as she washed dishes in Boaz’s house and looked out the kitchen window across the fields to the threshing floor, she would be reminded of the night she lay at Boaz’s feet asking him to be her kinsman redeemer. I am guessing she would tell her story of God’s faithfulness to her maidservants as they went about their daily chores.
Her story of how God accepted her, a Moabite and outsider, without her even realising that the son she was carrying would ultimately be in the line of Jesus, the ultimate kinsman redeemer.
Consider Naomi: I am sure that every time she held her little grandson, Obed, in her arms, she would tell the local women of God’s faithfulness to her and tell her story of how bitterness, sadness and three gravestones were turned to joy through God’s grace and faithfulness to her. I am guessing that as she looked at her daughter- in-law, Ruth, she would give thanks in her heart to God for this woman who refused to leave her. I am guessing that as Ruth looked at Naomi, she would tell her son of how her mother-in-law had told her of the true God of Israel, who never leaves nor forsakes His people.
Consider Mary Magdalene: I am sure that her pile of stones was in the form of a perfume bottle. A reminder of what her Lord lovingly did for her in rescuing her. I am guessing that as her scent filled the nostrils of those around her, her story of God’s grace to her was a sweet aroma to her heavenly Father.
Consider Peter: I am sure that every winter fire, every foot washing bowl and every fish braai on the beach were his unique pile of memory stones. I am guessing that he could not be silenced as his servants made a fire in his home or washed his dusty feet and they would hear of his rejection of Jesus and Jesus’ redemption and forgiveness of him. Daily opportunities to tell his story where the main character was not him, but Jesus Christ, the only one worth following.
We all have unique and personal stories like Naaman, Hannah, Ruth, Naomi and Peter. The details will be different, the storyline will be different, but the faithfulness of God is the theme of each of our testimonies. It might be a small answer to prayer. It might be a mountain top experience. Whatever it is, we must not forget. We must start stacking our stones; each one a memory of God’s faithful intervention in our lives.
Every time we tell our story, no matter how small and insignificant, it makes God big and significant. Every time we tell our story, we make God beautiful and personal.
Thanksgiving is the one American tradition that I have always thought began with the right intent of remembering. It is a wonderful legacy.
When our daughter died in 2004, we decided that every year, on her birthday, the 4th October, we would have a Thanksgiving meal. We would invite close friends and family and use it as an opportunity to not only celebrate her birthday and life, but to reflect on God’s faithfulness and sustaining grace to us as a family. Our 4th October thanksgiving meal is one of our personal stones. A memorial. A yearly ‘show and tell’ opportunity.
We do not literally build a pile of stones, but yours may be a photograph in a frame, a bookmark in your Bible, a piece of jewellery, a place of remembrance, a tree planted, a drawing stuck on the fridge – each one a ‘show and tell’ opportunity to share what God has done in your life.
Earthly reminders of a heavenly reality.
If you are a teenager reading this who is saved by grace, your pile of stones may be small. But start with the one stone. See God at work and treasure that. Share that.
Choose to tell your story. Don’t be silent. God is never silent in our lives.
Listen to their stories...
Many today, especially among the younger generation, are self-centred and self-focused, seeking to have their own voices heard. They dismiss the idea of spending time to hear the way God has worked faithfully though older generations and they lose out in the process.
The stories of those who have walked a longer journey of faith than we have.
The stories of those who have wisdom and experience as their companion.
Stories which are a wonderful source of encouragement to building our faith and building us up.
Ask people to share and then listen and take note. Be the recipients of their ‘show and tell.’
Stories borne out of experience, joy, trials, hardships and sadness.
Stories that shine where faith has been tested and proved genuine.
Their piles of stones stand tall. Listen to them.
The grandmother who has buried too many children and wept at their graves. Listen to her testimony of God’s faithfulness and comfort to her.
The grandfather who fought in the war and watched as those for whom he would die were blown to shreds on his watch. Listen to how he experienced God’s faithfulness and presence in those times.
The couple in your church who have returned from the far-off mission field. Listen to their stories of God’s providence in their lives over many years.
The terminally ill cancer sufferer who still gets up on a Sunday morning to preach to his congregation. Listen to his heart of faithfully serving God till the end, and how he has experienced Gods faithfulness and daily sustaining grace and a peace that passes understanding.
Listen to their stories. Grow from their stories. Persevere because of their stories.
Be encouraged as a result of their stories. They are a gift to you.
God’s faithfulness is all around us. We need eyes to see it, hearts that rejoice in it, ears to hear it, lips to speak it and minds that remember it.
We need to be childlike in our enthusiasm to ‘show and tell’ that our God is good because we have tasted and seen that He is good. When we are faithless, He remains faithful.
That is our story. That is what we have to ‘show and tell.’
A reminder to us who are prone to forget that God never forgets us.
Remember Christ’s story...
And then be reminded that we, as trophies of God’s grace, are living stones, living memories of the power, grace, faithfulness and love of Christ. That is why He said to His disciples at the last Supper, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’
The Lord’s Supper is one of our ‘show and tell’ moments. A celebratory and humbling opportunity to remember what Christ bought for us at Calvary; God’s ultimate ‘show and tell.’
‘Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.’ [Jennie E. Hussey, 1921]