“Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” — Joshua 4:5-7
Yes, I do, in fact, have a literal stone of remembrance.
Let me explain. In the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to go on a Summer Project with Cru in Traverse City, Michigan. On stateside Projects, students are generally encouraged to look for jobs and to view those jobs as ministry locations. This particular summer, there were about 25 of us looking for jobs. We started looking for jobs the first week of Project, and by the third week of Project, there were about seven of us left that were without jobs. I had worked at Burger King in my hometown for four years, so I had decided to apply at McDonald’s (among many other places)- because surely they would jump at the opportunity to hire someone with fast food experience! Well…McDonald’s hired four people from our Project…but I was not one of them. So I waited…and applied more places…and waited. I went back into McDonald’s to check on the status of my application, and was unsuccessful. By the end of that third week of Project, there were two of us left unemployed. I had started to become rather discouraged, and a sense of worthlessness had started to descend on me.
I wrote in my journal, “But seriously, (I) can’t find a job…not even at McDonald’s?…I guess God’s trying to smack me down of the notion that I deserve something of what I’ve done…I’m not entitled to anything…I didn’t pray for a job today, I prayed for a definitive answer about McD’s, and I got one. I got exactly what I prayed for, but was/am too (angry) at it that I don’t know what to do.” By the end of that week, the two of us that were left had started to accept the possibilty that we would not have a job that summer. And then one day, one of our fellow Project members got a phone call. It was from his boss at Cherry Growers, Inc.- a cherry processing plant just outside of Traverse City. There were five people from our Project working at the plant (who had just gotten hired a few days earlier), and somehow during this conversation, the manager asked if our group had anyone else who would like a job. My friend replied that yes, he knew of two people who would love to have a job.
My friend came to talk to the two of us who didn’t have a job, and as he told us about the conversation with his manager, I was stunned. Neither one of us had even applied to work at Cherry Growers, but here we were, now with jobs. I had put in so much effort, driven around Traverse City so much looking for jobs…and I wound up with a job that I didn’t even apply for. God used this time of not being able to find a job to humble me, correct some misconceptions I had about the world, and to make me dependent on Him. I couldn’t claim any bit of the success in obtaining this job- it was all His doing.
In stateside Summer Projects, the staff leave about halfway through the Project, and then the directors return for the final few days to wrap up everything and to send us home. On the last night, we talked about the same story in Joshua that Matt preached on a few weeks ago, and we all got stones on which we were instructed to write the main lesson God had tried to teach us that summer. Now, when I look at the rock, I remember the ups and downs of that journey, the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and utter dependence…and then I remember that my situation really isn’t up to me, because God truly does control and will provide.