Likely you have completed a challenge or achieved something in the past for which you have a trophy, medal, or certificate. That’s great! So what are you doing with yourself now? Reminiscing or looking for the next challenge to face?
Shake the dust off those trophies! Every man needs a challenge.
As I’ve mentioned before, I belong to a Christian motorcycle club. We chose to launch our 2018 Open Meetings by giving out long-service badges to a few members. I received my 10 year badge. Another received a 25 year badge. A member who passed away last year received his 40 year badge posthumously. His wife accepted the badge on his behalf.
These badges are a marker for indicating a member’s long-service. In this case, they also serve as a memorial for those who have died. It was a very moving meeting and start to the challenges of the year ahead together.
On the Relative Challenge of Markers and Memorials
Yet I was struck afterwards by the difference between markers and memorials, the relative value of each to challenge us to further action.
Loosely defined, markers indicate a real or virtual objective completed in the past or aimed for in the future. Memorials celebrate the memory of a person or event. My 10 year and 25 year badges marking long-service encourage the members of our club to continue serving. The 40 year badge given was a memorial to a valued member who served well and faithfully, but is no longer able to serve, through no fault of his own.
Markers inspire and challenge us to continue the journey. Memorials, while pleasant nostalgia, may contribute little to those left behind —let me be clear, no disrespect is intended with this post to the member of 40 years or his family, as this incident merely sparked some thoughts I’d like to share here.
A Memorial Challenge
This difference between markers and memorials can be demonstrated also with a story from the history of the ancient people of Israel. We read in The Book of Joshua:
After the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua: “Choose twelve men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them: Take twelve stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.”
So Joshua […] said to them, “[…] this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The water of the Jordan was cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s water was cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”
The Israelites did just as Joshua had commanded them. The twelve men took stones from the middle of the Jordan, one for each of the Israelite tribes, just as the LORD had told Joshua. They carried them to the camp and set them down there. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing. The stones are still there today. (Joshua 4:1–9)
A large number of people crossed over on dry land because the Lord miraculously parted the river for them. At the Lord’s urging, they erected stones in that spot and committed to remembering what the Lord had done for them there. Yet, we know from history, that memorial did not challenge the people. Neither did it stop them from rejecting the Lord and worshipping other gods in the land to which he led them.
Past Achievements Spur Further Challenges
Reading this, you likely have trophies on a shelf or stored in a box somewhere. They are trophies of past achievements, even as you may now spend most of your time on the couch eating Cheetos! They were not meant to be memorials of past achievements but markers encouraging you to run faster, jump higher, or get stronger.
Whether athletics, intellectual pursuits, travel, adventure, or any other achievement or obstacle overcome, these markers should spur you on to further challenges.By all means, buy the t-shirt, set up the trophy in the pool room, or proudly display the certificate on your wall. Let these be for you a marker, indicating a further objective. Accept the challenge in those things you’ve already proved you have some skill at. Don’t let your souvenirs become merely memorials that arouse a pleasant memory but gather dust otherwise.
What trophies, medals, or certificates have you received that were valuable to you in the past but for which you lost interest?
Might you find in them a new challenge to breathe some life into your weary flesh and bones?
Please submit your reflections or any questions below. I would love to hear from you!