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?