Birthdays are markers like graduations, engagements, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and the birth of children. We need markers in our lives or we forget. We don’t slow enough to consider what has been given to us and what we are required to give in the future.
This is not just a curse of fast-paced twenty-first century life, but even was necessary for tribal nomads living east of the Jordan River 2500 years ago.
Moses has died, and his successor, Joshua, is given instructions on how to cross the Jordan, launching the campaign to claim the inheritance God had promised them through Abraham 600 years earlier.
The priests are to enter the swollen Jordan carrying the ark of the covenant, causing the waters to part for the people to begin crossing on dry ground. Once the people have crossed over, Joshua chooses 12 men from the tribes to go back into the now dry river bed and select 12 stones. These stones will be erected as a memorial on the banks of the Jordan, reminding them of the work of God in their midst, perpetuating the faith to future generations who inquire at the meaning of this mound of stones.
Entry into water is always an image of baptism. Like his namesake Joshua, Jesus passes through the Jordan to begin His battle against the forces of darkness, of which the first great battle will be His temptation by Satan. As Christians, we also follow Christ (and Joshua) into the Jordan, and arise to a life not of comfort but of warfare, a warfare against the evil in our own hearts, and the strongholds of darkness into the world.
But we have no strength to fight without Joshua's 12 stone memorial that is physical monument to the work of God. We mimic this action today through iconography, the physical and material acts of worship, and even the commemoration of God's actions in the world through the 12 Great feasts of the Church.
Not only do we, like Joshua, establish physical markers of God's work throughout our lives in order to perpetuate the faith in our life and our children's, our own lives should be "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5) that inspire faith.
We should be memorials of God's action in this world, a beachhead on the battleground, displaying the victory of Christ against the darkness.
As much as the advance of years scares me, I must stop and thank God for these markers, reminding me of His grace in my life, praying that the time between now and the next zero will be a time of faithfulness, offering back those blessings that He has given me.