And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:5-7 ESV
There are certain life moments etched within us which require us to glance back through time and remember. To be reminded how far we have traveled through the struggles and trials with God faithfully by our side.
For me, I glance back every February – the time where I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been four years since the diagnosis, doctor visits, surgery, treatments; things that are in my rearview mirror, yet I can still glance back and see them.
In Joshua 4:1-24 the children of Israel were commanded to make a memorial from stones taken out of the river Jordan so that:
“this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord ; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, … Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.” (Joshua 4:6-9)
For me, the memorial stones are represented by the physical scars, emotions, memories and life lessons of breast cancer.
As I glance back in the rearview mirror, I ask myself, “What do these stones mean to you?”
The physical scars remind me of the battle for my life. The surgeries with multiple procedures, the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that changed the way my body looked, felt and operated. The physical fatigue and inability to carry out simple daily tasks of caring for myself and my family. Most of those effects have resolved themselves but others will forever scar my body as a reminder that I am a warrior, a fighter, and God is my healer.
The emotions remind me the Word of God is more important that I had ever known or would ever understand because the battle against cancer is fought in the mind.
Fear, anxiety and wild imaginations take root inside your thoughts and they are very hard to shake. The enemy reminds you of every reason you are unworthy of God’s love, protection and healing.
But, the enemy didn’t count on my two secret weapons: my husband and God’s Word. My husband refused to allow my words or my thoughts to become negative or stray from the promises of God’s Word.
I am still not sure how he knew when my thoughts were full of fear and worry, but he saw it in my eyes and on my face. Immediately he would say, “No, we aren’t going there. The devil is a liar. Remember that God said…”.
There were days when he was at work that I would have to read scripture literally second by second to keep the negative thoughts from overtaking my mind.
The emotions didn’t stop just because treatment ended. Every new ache or pain, news article about breast cancer research that has failed in finding a treatment for triple negative breast cancer, every future plan made well in advance, every talk of grandkids and growing old is an open door for the enemy to attempt to set off fear and anxiety. Those fears are in my rearview mirror, but I’ve learned praying God’s Word is so much more powerful and brings healing and life.
The memories of all my experiences help me to reach out to other cancer survivors. I have had several opportunities to speak with patients who have just received their diagnosis. As I listen to them talk, I hear the fear and I remember.
I remember each moment that I sat across from a doctor with bad news.
I remember every waiting room and the countless minutes it took to be called back for my appointment.
I remember the unknown of how treatment would feel or how it would effect me and how soon.
I have to remember. If I lose those feelings I’ll fail to have empathy.
If I lose empathy I’ll lose my ability to be understanding and compassionate.
Remembering affirms what God has done for me. I can not forget the miracle He gave to me.
If I forget what He brought me through, then I will lose my gratitude and my praise.
Although, the scars, emotions, and memories will always be in my rearview mirror, God has many new adventures waiting up the road in front of me.
I do not know where I am going or what opportunities are along the way. I am just trusting Him and praying for miraculous experiences.
I look back every now and then…but only for a glance.
Meg Gemelli says
Wow, Stephanie. This is a powerful post today. I love, love, love the use of Joshua. The stones are so symbolic for me, though it’s a long story:) I’m excited to be visiting for the first time today. You have a beautiful site and keep up the good work!