Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”–Genesis 35:1
We aren’t much into building altar’s these days. I don’t have stacks of stones that mark places I have been with God.
But, there are plenty of things that remind me where God has met me. There were two reminders in worship this past Sunday.
When I was in the seventh grade, I attended summer camp. In that week, a verse was carved into the deepest places of my heart. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11. As this verse shaped my 13 year old heart, I committed to Christ-formed life. It began my journey into intentional spiritual formation that continues even now. As my community of faith sang these words on this past Sunday morning, I was reminded of that first encounter with Jesus. And I was reminded that God has faithfully answered this prayer in my life. God has met me in this place. And I have left changed. It is an altar in my walk of faith, even if it doesn’t have any stones.
In September of 2003, with a two week old baby in tow, my husband and I listened to a church community sing with freedom of the promises of God’s salvation. We exchanged a look of wonder, anxiety, and knowledge. This past Sunday, in that same location, the community declared together again those same truths. I was reminded of God’s call on our young family to join with that community…to leave the known and familiar in order to begin a new chapter in our life. We thought we knew what God was going to do with our vocational commitment to this community. But the path hasn’t been that simple. Instead, we have lived the life of a faith adventure with this community. We have cried, we have struggled, we have laughed, we have prayed, we have felt lost, we have felt led. But this is our church now. It is our family. Those same words sung reminded me of how deep my love for this community goes. The song is an altar…it marks a place that God met us and called us. It marks a place that we said yes to God. It is a mile marker along a journey of faith.
What are the mile-markers that exist in your journey with God? Notice them, name them, and offer thanks for them. These are the places that define the places where God has met you, changed you, and where you have said yes. These are altars just as sure as a stack of stones in ancient Israel.