Do you have sacred places, thinplaces, where God once spoke to you? Do you ever go back to reconnect?
One day last week I listened to a Mosaic podcast by Hank Fortner, and he reminded me of one of my favorite Bible stories - about the time when God stopped the Jordan River so the people could walk across.
Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. (Joshua 3:15-16, NIV)
Those priests were brave men, walking into a flooded river while carrying the heavy ark. God didn’t stop the water until they took the initial risk of stepping in. And if that wasn’t enough, they stayed in the middle of the river to show the way.
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing. (Joshua 3:17, NIV)
I’ve read that story, even taught that story, many times through the years, but this time I couldn’t help but imagine one of those priests sneaking back down to the same spot on the riverbank, years later, after the conquest was over, and putting his feet in the water to see if it would stop again.
Maybe he was a little sad that it didn’t work a second time, but even happier to know it was God who did the stopping and not his own magic feet. Wouldn’t you rather have God than magic feet?
I imagine that priest returning often to put his feet in the water, to feel the coolness, to remember the time when the river stopped, to relive the moment of God’s power and authority and grace, allowing the water to draw him closer to God once again. Spoiled to the supernatural, he wanted more.
There’s more to the story: the twelve stones.
So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day…. Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ (Joshua 4:8 - 22, NIV)
And so, I imagine my priest starring at that pile of rocks, a permanent reminder of God’s power. Maybe, when his life was especially hard, he put his hands on them just to remind himself of God’s goodness. Maybe he even sat on the ground with his back leaning against the pile, letting the heat in the rocks soak into his exhausted body, like the grace of God soaking onto his heart.
I don’t think I’m off base here. In his phenomenal book, Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson asked: I wonder if Peter ever rowed out to that spot where he walked on water? Did Zacchaeus ever take his grandchildren back to climb the sycamore tree? Did Lazarus ever revisit the tomb where he spent four days? Did Paul ever ride out to the mile marker on the Damascus Road?
Every once in a while we need to go back to the sacred places and celebrate what God has done. Reconnect to the supernatural. I’ve done that a few times in my life. I think of it as anchoring a memory.
One day in 1999 when I was driving back to Midland from a drilling rig visit, I stopped in Brownfield and changed clothes in a fast food restaurant parking lot (in the privacy of my car, that is) to run down Highway 137, one of my first “adult” routes. It was in September 1980, while running down that very road, the immense responsibility of being a brand new father washed over me all at once. At the turnaround, I made a commitment to step into the role, and I was a different man running back home. I returned to Highway 137 nineteen years later because I wanted to smell the air and remember the texture of a road that played an important part in my new life as a husband and father.
Another story: One morning in May 2008, at a Wild at Heart Advanced Camp at Crooked Creek Ranch, Colorado, I returned to a concrete picnic table where God spoke to me in the deepest emotional experience of my life. I wanted my friend Eric to take a photo so I wouldn’t forget, or diminish, what happened there. I still look at that photo often, to remind myself that I didn’t fanaticize the whole story.
How about you? Have you returned to a sacred place where God once spoke? Have you leaned against the rocks to feel the heat of God’s grace?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org