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Remembering the Jordan

Join a child as her father shares his memories of crossing the Jordan.

“Father, did someone stack those stones?”

You were waiting for your daughter to ask this question. Your family is stopped on the dusty road along the Jordan River valley, near the memorial stones where your people crossed the river. For a moment you say nothing. Your thoughts go back to a day when you were your little girl’s age.

Everyone was gathered by the river, and the priests carrying the ark of the covenant had stepped to the bank. You wanted to see, so your father put you on his shoulders. “Why have we come to the river?” you asked him.

“Our wandering is over, son. It’s time to go into the land promised to our forefathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

“Do we have to swim?”

“I don’t know,” your father said slowly.

You didn’t see it happen. You were more startled by the people gasping and murmuring in amazement. Then you and your family were walking through the riverbed. You came so close to the ark you could almost touch it, but you knew better. You looked to the right, and it was as if an unseen hand held back the water. You feared the water would come crashing down and sweep you away.

Then it was over, and your father was stepping out of the riverbed and onto the other side. Much later, after everyone had passed through, you watched as 12 strong men went down into the riverbed. Each picked up a large, flat stone, dry on the top after all day in the sun but dripping moisture from below. You remember the sun glistening off those droplets as they ran down the shoulders of the men.

The priests carrying the ark stepped out of the river, and the waters gave way. You can still feel the spray as it rushed down the riverbed, flooding everything.

Today, sitting with your family, the water is calm. But you remember the riverbed.

You tousle your daughter’s hair. “Those stones remind us of the day the Lord cut off the waters of the Jordan. The ark was carried into the water, and the water just . . . stopped.”

“It stopped?” your daughter exclaims.

“Like a hand just . . . whop, right into the water.” Her mouth drops open, and you smile. “Your grandfather carried me across on dry ground, like a path cut right through the river.”

“That’s amazing!” she says.

You nod. “That’s where the stones came from. They pulled them right out of the river.”

“Those stones were underwater?” Her voice keeps rising in pitch.

“And we piled them up to remember.”

“To remember,” she whispers, a tone of awe in her voice, as though remembering is itself a mysterious and sacred thing.

We remember what he’s done, and we go forward, following his will for the next day, the next week, the next year.

“Yes, we remember the things the Lord has done for us. The promises he kept. His power, his mighty deeds to care for his people. He has been good to us.

“But, little one, I want you to notice something,” you continue. You point to the river. “See how the river flows today? There is no path to the other side. Do you know why?”

She shakes her head.

“We don’t go back to where we were before his promises came true. We remember what he’s done, and we go forward, following his will for the next day, the next week, the next year. God’s mercy brought us here today, and his mercy will go with us tomorrow.”

You pull your daughter onto your lap. “Do you understand, little one?”

“Yes, but I have just one question. How heavy were the rocks?”

Author: Brandon Steenbock
Volume 111, Number 01
Issue: January 2024

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