As I planned this series 31 Days of Adventure, I had in mind my favorite books of all time, The Lord of the Rings. In my opinion, they're the epitome of the adventure story (if you're curious as to why I can't stop talking about them, see my post Epic). These beautiful books have everything that an adventure needs, and I wanted to write about all those elements of adventure in this series. Tolkien writes about sheer terror and love so bright it lights the sky. He tells tales of beauty and grace and power and destiny. He places his characters in circumstances so gorgeous they practically sparkle off the pages. And very soon, when those same characters are experiencing the uttermost darkness, they remember the bright places -- those moments of hope and joy and safety. A moment that comes to mind occurs when Frodo and his servant/companion Sam are trapped in the labyrinthine lair of Shelob, a giant spider. They are naturally terrified. They are utterly trapped in this maze of caves, which seems like the center of all darkness. As they make their way through this labyrinth, they remember when they were staying with the elves: the beauty and serenity of that experience, the feeling they had when they were there. It is this memory that brings them through the darkness. It is this memory that gives them the strength to go on.
Similar things happened with the Israelites in the Bible. Before they could reach the Promised Land, they had to cross the Jordan River, a sizable body of water in what was then Canaan. It was harvest time, and the Jordan overflowed all its banks during the harvest. There was no way they were going to get across safely; it was like a mini version of the Red Sea. God told Joshua (the leader of the Israelites after Moses died) to have the priests wade into the river bearing the Ark of the Covenant, the physical house of the presence of God. God promised that when the priests did this, the rivers of the Jordan would stop flowing, allowing the Israelites to pass through. This is exactly what God brought to pass: the priests waded into the river with the Ark, and the water stopped flowing. The entire nation of Israel passed through the river Jordan on dry ground.
After this happened, God commanded the Israelites to raise a monument, comprised of twelve stones taken from the place the priests were standing. In the Bible, this kind of monument is called Ebenezer -- literally, a stone remembrance. God says, "When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground'... so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever" (Joshua 4:21-22, 24). These monuments were for all the people of Israel so that they would remember what God had done for them.
And remember they do. The Israelites constantly cling to what God has done for them. They are constantly citing what God did for their forefathers. They are incessantly pointing to the past and saying that they know that God will come through for them, because God has never not come through for them.
Remembrance is important. When we remember what God has done for us, we realize that we can count on Him to work on our behalf, to sustain us. The memory of God's faithfulness is enough to sustain us, because in that memory is a promise that God will not fail us. Even if it feels like everything is silent, like there is no hope, we are buoyed up by the recollection of what has been done for us.
Something I like to tell myself and all my friends is this: there has never been a time that God did not come through for you. All that means is that God has always been faithful. I remember the times in my life that all hope seemed lost and God came through -- and I know that He will come through for me again. This feels really arrogant sometimes -- but it's not, because it's not based on me. It's based on the nature of Who God is. I remember all He has done for me, and I know He'll come through, because He's never not come through.
This feels risky. This feels wrong. We feel like we really can't count on that. But we really can. The thing is that faith feels risky -- but that's because of me, not because of Him.
If we want to have any kind of adventure at all, we have to have this kind of risky faith. Otherwise we'll be too terrified to take another step. We have to count on Who God is and what He has done for us. This sustains us. It gives us the courage to move a little further, to take just one more step, to advance a little further in the darkness. And we can do this because we have hope, based on the remembrance of the true events that God has brought to life in us.
May we remember. May we have faith in God because He's built up his reputation for faithfulness, and He's not going to stop now. May we recall what He has done for us, and may it give us courage to move forward into the adventure He's given us.