Culture

January 19 2012
26

We sit around the table, the last bits of dinner drying on my aunt’s good china. Candles flicker and Christmas lights resting on branches of evergreen twinkle from the living room. Our attention is drawn to the rocks that sat on our napkins when we first sat down for Christmas dinner.

I hold the rock, knowing what is coming. Dreading what is coming. Before dinner my aunt asked me if I would share a bit about the word Ebenezer. If I would share with everyone what it means. I hold the rock in my hand knowing that each rock is to be an Ebenezer for each of us at the table. That we will share with each other what this Ebenezer is to remind us of.

In these situations, because this gathering and sharing is common in my family, I am quick to share. But tonight is different. Tonight I hold back. Tonight I wait for something else to come to mind. Tonight I wait because what fits perfectly, what I know I am to remember and praise God for this past year is not what I want to share, it is not what I want to celebrate. So I sit quietly, hoping the words of my family will remind me of something different, something more comfortable to share.

But nothing comes. Instead I see more and more just how perfectly it fits that I would raise this Ebenezer and remember the faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of what I do not want to remember, in the midst of that for which I do not wish to praise Him, even as I recall how lost I would have been without Him.

Second to last, I speak up. I have not spoken two words before I feel tears stinging the corners of my eyes, and my throat thicken as I fight to speak words instead of cry. I look down at the rock as I speak rather than into the faces of family. “I’ve tried to think of something else, because I hate what I know this Ebenezer is to be, but it is what it has to be. This rock, “ I say, “the thing this rock represents is change. And I hate change,” I laugh and cry at the same time, “But that is exactly what this year has been. A year of change. Good change. And then hard change. And then more good change. And even though I know change is inevitable, even though I am excited by what these changes mean for the next year, I am so scared, and I still hate change.”

I hold the rock. It is not the rock I first lifted off my plate. It is smooth and well worn. It is a darker shade of grey with bits of white nestled deep in the small line that splits it into uneven hemispheres. The rock I wanted is sharp, jagged, in need of much refining. But this is the rock I have been given. As my dad, the geologist, explains the process rock goes through to become what each of us holds in our hands, I hear the voice of my Heavenly Father whisper loud enough for only me to hear, “You have been refined. I am refining you. Let go of sharp edges. That is not who you are, for you are who I say you are. You are becoming who I have always intended you to be. Soft, smooth. Those jagged angles no longer define you. Because you have entered into change, dear one, because you have stepped into the raging, storm tossed waters of sanctification, those edges are gone. Washed away with the outgoing tide, leaving you softer than you were a year ago.”

A tear slides down my cheek, and I add another tissue to the pile in front of me on the table. “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” I think, holding the rock that remembers His saving guidance, love, and peace in the midst of change, as I look at the pile tissues that, at least for the moment, is its own Ebenezer to 2011, a year remembered for and marked by change.

If you were to raise an Ebenezer to mark 2011, what would you remember?

As we forge ahead into 2012, what do you hope it holds?

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26 comments

  1. Oh, Haley. I feel and hear the breathe of God as I read your words tonight. That could have been me sitting at that table with “tears stinging the corner of my eyes.” My Ebenezer was the same as yours.

    I have a significant anniversary to commemorate in a couple of weeks. I have been wondering what I could do to honor the years that have passed and all the lessons that have been learned and the life that has been lived. And I now I know that I will gather with my loved ones and we will all mark our stones–our Ebenezers. And next year, when the anniversary is upon us again, we will take them out and remember. And mark them again. And on and on and on.

    Reply
    • Haley

      I love the image of loved ones gathered together, remembering. So often what we want to do is forget, let the past stay in the past. But there is a sacredness in remembering. Blessings to you and to your loved ones as you remember, and remember again.

      Reply
  2. Haley, such a great post.

    Last year much like you was a year of change for me, a year of trusting God even when the situations around me were hard to adjust to.

    In 2012, my hope is a year filled with deeper and stronger relationships and more confidence in the voice I’ve been given.

    Reply
    • Haley

      Thank you, Bindu. I pray that this year is a year of deeper, stronger relationships, a year of confidence in the voice God’s given you, a year of confidence in the person He has made you to be. Live into that, because there is only one you.

      Reply
  3. I’ve been think about build a cairn, a pile of rocks in my back yard, as my Ebenezer to God’s faithfulness in leading me through some stormy waters. Teenage son navigating some particular challenges. Trusting God’s got him.

    Reply
    • Haley

      I say do it! I had a cairn made of three small pebbles on my desk at work for several months to remind me of God’s faithfulness. It was a huge encouragement to me to see it each day. So I say build it, build it and remember that as He has been faithful before, He will continue to be faithful again and again.

      Reply
  4. Wendi

    My Ebenezer is walking away from my church. While so much else has happened in 2011, a definite year of change, walking away from a church family has taken it’s toll on me. I feel chronically depressed. I have visited several churches in my town over the last 10 years but the one church I felt most welcome in was also the one that was most dysfunctional, and not just normal family dysfunction, but nasty, rude, and at times, Godless; as in we kicked Him out declaring our will to be the best for our church and not being silent and listening for God’s voice to tell us what we should do.

    And now year later I still have no church family or home. Part of me wants to go back but I feel like I can’t reconcile with my experiences with churches around town – one totally family oriented, another only elderly people, another who’s teachings are completely opposite to what I believe, and on and on.

    I don’t know if I can put down my rock yet. I feel like it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

    Maybe I’ve missed the whole point of the Ebenezer.

    Reply
    • Haley

      Wendi, that sounds so painful…the Church is a beautiful thing, the Bride of Christ, and yet individual churches can leave deep wounds. I’m sorry the one you left has hurt you, and I’m sorry they’ve chosen themselves over God.

      I think, even if it’s not time to raise an Ebenezer to this part of your journey, it’s time to put down that burden. The Lord’s yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Let Him be the one to carry you through this. No church is perfect because each church is made up of sinners, but I’m praying God would lead you to a community of believers this year that puts Him first, and welcomes you in with open arms.

      Reply
      • Wendi

        Thanks for your reply.

        I think you’re right, but I’m not sure how to let God carry this. Do you know of any devotions or books that talk about the hurt that can come from church that might be helpful? I really miss it but I’m too gun shy to just start shopping again.

        Reply
        • Haley

          I think the first step in letting God carry it is to just talk about it. I’m a huge fan of honesty, just telling Him you don’t know how to let Him carry it, but that you want Him to, and asking for Him to show you how that works. I don’t know about devotions or books, but if it’s alright with you, I could email the Deeper Story crew and see if they have any recommendations. If you’d like, I can ask them if they know of churches in your area. Feel free to email me haleycloyd [at] gmail [dot] com too so I can send you their responses.

          Reply
  5. Becca

    Wendi,

    I may be able to reccomend some books. You’re welcome to email me at beccasuester@ gmail. If you’re comfortable sharing more detail I can point you in a good direction. I too, had heart wrenching change in 2011 that involved an unhealthy church dying and significant loss in the process.

    Reply
  6. I raise my Ebenezer to a broken marriage, healed; to a God bigger than my mess; to my husband’s heart, claimed for Himself, pointed back to me.

    Thank you, Haley, for the reminder to praise Him all along the way.

    Reply
    • Haley

      That sounds like quite the year, and definitely one remembering. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  7. Thanks for inviting us all to raise our Ebenezer rock! I raise my stone to the Savior that keeps drawing me in. I’m settling around the truth of my adoption in Him. I find His grace gives me so many chances to choose His love over my hurts.

    Reply
  8. Amanda

    I have read this several times throughout this day. I’ve forwarded on this message to several friend’s because this was too good. Too true not to share. I’m finding myself in the midst of chane all around me. My church family is about to walk through its first major change with our pastors leaving and my heart is so broken over that. I know that it is the Lord’s plan. And I know that the church an my pastors are about to reap a great harvest. But it doesn’t take away the pain of this change. Over and over again I am reminded of how well the Father knows his children and I really needed to read this today. 2 words that have been on replay in my head are grief and joy. This season I’m entering is going to be full of change that brings with it grief, but I am believing that on the other side of this is unquenchable joy that only comes from Him and knowing his character and believing his goodness. Beauty from the ashes.

    Reply
    • Haley

      Thank you, Amanda.

      Beauty from ashes, absolutely!f

      Reply
  9. I raise my Ebenezer to learning to deal with a year of change. New home, new job for my husband, continuing struggles with infertility, all kinds of changing roles for me. It’s been a blessing in some ways, but super stressful in others. And thankfully God was and is there even on my less than graceful days.

    Reply
  10. We just spoke about Ebenezers in a Bible Studay I take part in. And I love that it’s okay if the Ebenezer reminds us of the trials we have come through, because those shape us more than anything, I believe. Raising my Ebenezer to 2011… a year of hard, hard change.

    Reply
    • Haley

      I think it is SO important that we mark the hard places. It gives us a reminder of God’s faithfulness the next time we face challenges. It reminds us (ME) that God is good even though life is hard.

      Reply
  11. Thank you.

    My Ebenezer may be quite the opposite (and in some ways the same!). I remember the faithfulness of God silencing a heart that can’t stop thinking about “next.” It is a dissatisfaction with where I am, who I am.

    And I hear God say to me “It isn’t about who you are or where you are, but who I AM.”

    And like you I become refined

    Reply
  12. I loved this article and the question prompting thought at the end of it. I hope 2012 will be a great year of continued change. 2011 was rough – 2010 was worse. But my eyes are fixed on Jesus and I choose to steadily move forward. This change is scary for me – still learning to love myself which was a big thing for me (per scripture verse that says to love your neighbour as yourself) as I was brought up to self-despise. It is a hard and painful journey, but the blessings that come refresh my soul and I am thankful that I do have One parent who loves me, He is my heavenly Father who promised me about a decade ago that He would be all the mother and father I would ever need … and He has been. He really has been.

    Reply
  13. Georgi

    I marvel at His goodness and grace. 2011 was a year of change for me, too. April was one of the hardest times in my life, and it was then when I found Deeper Story, searching in my anguish online for people who loved Him. And what a treasure I found! I also read about eh writers at Deeper Story, and visited their blogs. At your site, I stumbled across a video you posted – Shadowfeet. I can’t begin to tell you the blessing that song has been in my life. For months I woke up every morning with it playing in my head. And it’s just so awesome that this post brought me back to that.

    Life has felt so hard today, but I am reminded that even in the darkest days, He continues to be there. Thank you.

    Reply
  14. Beautiful post

    Reply
  15. Matthew Nicholson

    So I’ve been considering getting a permanent ebenezer on my body for what God has done in my life. I was doing some research on ebenezers and ran across this blog. So beautifully written. I also know the painful beauty of grace…the life giving salve of acceptance and renewal in Christ. Thanks for these words Haley.

    Reply

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