This COVID-19 pandemic is not just something we are living through, but will likely serve as a clear historical marker understood and referenced by innumerable generations to come. Just as we often attach the descriptor “pre and post” to the Enlightenment period, the American Civil War, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, so I am sure the same will happen to this pandemic. To be fair we already do it when we say “before” or “after” March 2020. There is a universal understanding of what that phrase means. Scripture is filled with examples of significant moments being marked e.g. the day of rest and reflection after creation (Genesis 2), building of the first temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings), and the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), to name but a few.
In the same way, we experience significant markers (‘milestones’) in our personal, family, and work lives. The Barton family has experienced a whole bunch of these this summer alone, namely: Meghan starting to drive, leaving Matthew in central Texas last week to start his freshman year of college, Susan and I celebrating 24 years of marriage this week, and my second boss in two years announcing his retirement. All of these become markers in how I will recount the 2021 branch of the Barton family history. I am certain you have other markers, both personally and for your family.
I have to confess, I am horrible at marking moments. Inherently I experience them and then quickly move on to the next. I am secretly envious of friends who are so intentional in their acknowledgment, reflection, and learning in these moments. A few years ago this jealousy led me to try something new. I installed a board in my office and started to populate it with pieces of differently shaped notes held to the fabric with pushpins. For four years this board became cluttered with cards inscribed with the name of a person(s) who had a particular need, a situation that was of concern, an event or moment I was thankful for, or a prayer list someone emailed me. Occasionally, someone would come into my office and either pin their business card to the board or ask me to add their name! In the busyness of the workday, these ‘markers’ served as a reminder to pray in a spirit of intercession and/or thanksgiving.
About two weeks ago, I took some time to take each piece of card off the board and reflect on what had happened. In these cards, some four years old, I saw restoration of health, but also death. I saw new jobs and clarity, but also ongoing challenges and prayers yet unanswered. It was quite a moving exercise to get to an empty board as I saw, retrospectively, God’s handiwork and faithfulness throughout the stories contained within each card - whether they resolved the way I would have preferred or not. Much in the same way as the Lord instructed Joshua and the twelve tribes of Israel to mark the moment of crossing the Jordan for future generations with twelve memorial stones (Joshua 4), I felt my board was a marker of moments, a marker of God’s care and provision, a marker of what it meant to say on a regular basis, “Lord, I lift this to you”, “Lord, I thank you for your provision here”, “Lord, I want to acknowledge this and entrust it to you”.
How can you mark both the significant and insignificant moments in your every day in such a way as it causes you and others to be reminded of the good and intimately caring character of God? I would proffer that most of us need to be better markers of moments, not just for our own understanding but for giving God the glory. What moments have happened in your life or family since March 2020 that you want to be sure to mark? What is transpiring now and in the days ahead that you can dwell on and embrace the hope and grace found in God’s invitation to move purposefully and meaningfully in your circumstances?