When the Islamic extremist group, ISIS destroyed historical sites and tore down thousand-year old statues in the Middle East, the outcry against this act of desecration and vandalism was swift. I wept at the senseless destruction of historical artifacts that can never be replaced or restored. To me, as a teacher, with a passion for understanding how history has shaped our world, these acts of terrorism will impact future generations! Much like explaining the extinction of an animal species to my grandchildren, they will never benefit from seeing and learning about that animal without some visual representation. The same is true for past civilizations they will never understand by actually physically touching and viewing the masterpieces that acted as historical markers for the people who lived in those times. Even if those markers, statues, obelisks and the like were a reminder of the brutality of the times, they still have historical relevance that should remind future generations of learning from past mistakes.
There is biblical relevance for erecting monuments and statues as reminders of God’s provision and awesome power and activity in our lives. Henry Blackaby speaks of this and calls them “Spiritual Markers“:
“Spiritual memory is crucial in the Christian life. Do you vividly recall times when you know God spoke to you? It would be tragic if, in your haste to advance in your Christian faith, you neglected to leave spiritual markers at the key crossroads of your life. Without the help of these markers, you will lose your spiritual bearings.
The Israelites experienced a tumultuous pilgrimage. Their doubt that God was powerful enough to give them victory cost them forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Then God miraculously parted the waters of the Jordan River so they could pass over and continue their conquest. God knew that at times the Israelites would face intimidating enemies and would need a reminder that He was powerful enough to protect them. The Israelites might be tempted to think they made a mistake entering Canaan. For this reason God instructed them to build a monument on the banks of the Jordan River. Whenever they returned to this spot, they would see the monument and be reminded of God’s awesome power. This marker would give them confidence to meet the new challenges they faced.
A spiritual marker identifies a time of decision when you clearly know that God guided you. Can you remember the moment you became a child of God? Were there specific times when He called you to His ways of living? Can you point to times when He clearly guided you in a decision? Were there times when He spoke powerfully to you about a commitment you should make? Keep track of these important moments! Regularly rehearse them and notice the steady progression in the way God has led you. This will help you understand God’s activity in your life and give you a sense of direction as you face future decisions.”
When I battled cancer, my husband bought me a little angel figurine on the first day of my first chemo treatment. Every time I looked at that figurine during my journey with cancer, I was reminded to not give up, to know that God was in control, I was loved. Some have said I should get rid of it because it is a constant reminder of the pain I suffered during that time, but fifteen years later, I still cherish that little figurine as it acts as a Spiritual Marker for what I went through and it is a tool to keep me pointed towards the future and to depend on God through good times and bad.
On November 11th, each year I wear a red Poppy in remembrance of the sacrifice of men and women who fought and died in wartime battles. I have stood at many of the war memorials erected to honour our Canadian soldiers and to remember the tragedy that is war. They are historical markers that should serve to remind all who look upon them, the horrors of war and to never ever repeat them in the future.
I wept this week, when I saw vandals tear down statues in Charlottesville that depict a time in America’s history that, although painful, should never be forgotten. I understand the anguish and suffering and the hateful division those monuments are a reminder of, but the anger that culminated in their destruction was misdirected! Tearing down monuments and statues will not negate the events of that era then or now. These markers should serve as reminders to all peoples to NEVER repeat the mistakes of the past. The hate of yesterday should never be carried forward into today’s reality and thus affect future generations.
Instead, to those who want to abolish the hate propagated by events of the past, erect MORE monuments and statues so that you can teach the lessons learned from history to your children and grandchildren. Let the statues, monuments and spiritual markers stand as sentinels to remind future generations to never repeat those same mistakes. Place your own Spiritual Markers around your home to remember times when God intervened, or saved, or led you and your family through different seasons of life. Pass those “God Stories” on to your children and grandchildren to benefit future generations. You cannot eradicate hate by tearing down history, only repenting of the sins of the past and turning to Jesus Christ will do that.
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14