Have you ever noticed how often the Israelites collected rocks to build cairns as memorials to significant events in their history? Joseph built one after his encounter with God. The whole nation of Israel built one after they crossed the Jordan. Memorials, reminders, places to come and encounter God
I am also a collector of rocks. As a child I loved to gather specimens when we went on long road treks over the summer holidays. And in Australia there are some wonderful rocks to collect – sapphire chips, small pieces of opal, agates, and even flecks of gold. But in the last few years it is not these semi precious stones that have caught my attention. Now like the Israelites I gather rocks that mark significant events – and I give them names as memorials to remind me of my encounters with God.
I have a serpentine rock picked up on the beach on the island of Iona where Columba is supposed to have come ashore. I call it my rock of faithfulness because when I hold it in my hand I am reminded of all the faithful people like Columba who have gone before me.
I also have a limestone rock from the South coast of Australia. It has the fossil of a shell in it. This I call my rock of endurance. Look at it I am reminded that this shell comes from a creature that lived thousands of years ago. It has endured because it was transformed into the limestone rock.
Another in my collection is a rock that I picked up on Camano Island. Limpets cling tightly to it reminding me always of the need to cling closely to God.
I even have a rock that I picked up in our backyard – a beautiful specimen of malachite – unexpected because this is not a native rock to the Pacific NW. I call it my rock of unexpected surprises because it reminds me that God often comes to us in unexpected and unanticipated ways.
Probably the rock I have held in my hand most frequently is the one I call my rock of remembrance. It is streaked with veins of dark and light intertwined in an intricate pattern. It is a constant reminder to me that the dark and light sides of life are woven together inextricably. They cannot be separated or the rock would crumble into nothing.
Collecting rocks has become an important part of my prayer life, because each time I hold them in my hand I am reminded of some aspect of my faith journey and I find myself praying in gratitude, in repentance or just in sheer joy at the faithfulness of God.
You may not want to collect rocks as I do, but I think that the collection of objects that help root our prayers in the faithfulness of God in journey can be important signposts that lead us onward towards the heart of God. Whatever you collect keep these objects in the place where you pray. Pick them up when you are about to pray. Use them to focus your prayers and to build your faith. Remembering the acts of God in our past is one important way that we connect to the acts of God in the present and learn to trust in hope for the promises of God in the future.