A 4 by 3 inch slice of wood sits on my desk. Fifteen years ago it served as the stump to a Christmas tree that stood in our living room.
That year, I was struck by the fact that my Christmas tree spent 10 years preparing itself to be the family tree for three weeks. In the same way, I realized, God may spend months, even years, preparing me for significant moments.
I keep the tree sample on my desk as a reminder. In many ways, that stump symbolizes my values–the existence of God, the potentially redemptive nature of pain, the importance of preparing myself for significant moments.
Symbols Are All Around Us
We live in a world of symbols. Photos remind us of past events. Plaques, trophies, and medals take us back to earlier accomplishments. Tattoos on our bodies reveal untold stories. Perhaps you wear a cross to remind you of the steep price Jesus paid to save you from yourself. The symbols we choose to keep nearby say a great deal about our past and our values.
The importance of symbols cannot be understated. A life without them is a life devoid of meaning and memory.
When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, they gathered large stones from the bottom of the river and constructed a memorial on the river bank to remind them of the day God parted the waters to bring them home. The stones did more than tell a story—they taught the people about God.
The greatest memorial in the Christian faith is the Lord’s Supper, which reminds us not only of Jesus’ death, but also the forgiveness Jesus purchased for us, our hunger for him, and the importance of community (hence the word “communion”).
What do the symbols in your life communicate about you?
What symbols are missing?
What symbols shouldn’t be there?
As you revisit the memorials in your life, take a moment to listen. What might God be speaking to your heart?
If anything comes to mind, please share it with us!
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. His favorite symbol is a carved, wooden crucifix that hangs on a wall in front of his computer.