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  • Pete Ryder

Historical Markers

The scene became something of a family joke over time. We’d be on a road trip, going somewhere fun, say, like, King’s Island Amusement Park… Our family of four tooling down the road, two excited preteens in the back of the white Oldsmobile ’98 sedan, windows down, wriggling with excitement. As the miles ticked off, we knew we were getting closer and closer to a day of whirling and swirling fun.


But then the car slowed. Above the sound of the wind and the road I could hear the clicking of the turn signal. The car veered off an exit, way before our destination. What was going on? No one had said they had to ‘go.’ But then it would dawn on my brother and me – there must be a ‘Historical Marker” off this exit!


My Dad was always a notorious, voracious learner. He grew up travelling the country with his parents, camping along the way and taking in many notable sites, learning about the history of these great United States of ours. And that desire for learning continued into adulthood. Whenever he’d see a sign along the road that announced a ‘Historical Marker,” he’d want to follow it so he could learn what had happened there. And as a father of two rambunctious boys, he didn’t quite understand why we’d rather ride the Ferris wheel instead of finding out what happened on that specific spot 150 years ago.


Historical markers are simply signs that have been erected over time, describing that something significant happened in that location at some point in the past. There are over 1,800 historical markers in Ohio alone, and they add about 20 more each year. According to the Ohio History Connection website, these markers, “help tell the unique stories of the people, places, things, or events that helped shape individual communities as well as Ohio and the nation.”


And that was important to my Dad. So we’d pull off the main road, sometimes head down side streets and even dirt roads until we’d come to a sign on a pole with a bronze plaque. My Dad would get out of the car, go and read the sign, and then we’d be on our way. And although it was frustrating to me as an amusement park-loving boy, I have since grown fonder of learning and remembering the past.


In the Old Testament, God instructed Joshua to put up a ‘historical marker’ in the new promised land. It wasn’t nearly as fancy as a bronze plaque. It was simply a pile of 12 rocks. But they weren’t just any rocks. They were taken off the bottom of the Jordan River, while God held back the water and allowed the Israelites to cross. Those rocks could not have been retrieved without God’s intervention. And so they piled up those rocks as a memorial to what God had done. Future generations, if they paused long enough to slow down and pay attention, would learn about how God had acted on their behalf. Specifically, Joshua described it this way…


Joshua 4:21-24 “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”


Remembering is a great gift. Remembering God is even better. Because if God was faithful then, and He never changes, He’ll be faithful now, to us, in whatever we’re facing.


What spiritual ‘historical markers’ do you have set up in your life? Maybe it’s as simple as a comment in a journal or a few words jotted in the margin of your Bible. Or maybe it’s a special memento from a meaningful spiritual experience. Even a teen camp t-shirt can be an historical marker as you reflect on how God moved in your life that week. Baptism certificates, framed artwork…the list really is endless. The best is to simply spend time daily reading Scripture, reminding yourself of the timeless truths of God. It’s important to make sure we’re triggering memories all the time of how God has been faithful.


We tend to forget. We need to slow down, pull off the speedway of life sometimes, and remember that God is still God. And if He can do that, then, He can do this, now.

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