No, this is not about how to turn your child into a Scrooge. It is also not about how selfishness has creeped into our society and turned us into Scrooges. This is about a different kind of Ebenezer-the Hebrew kind.
The Hebrew word Ebenezer means a “stone of help.” There are places where the root of the word, Eben meaning stone, is used as a way to remember an experience with God. In the book of First Samuel, Samuel takes a stone and places it at a certain place to mark “this is how far God has brought us.” In Genesis Jacob erects a stone at Bethel to remember that God was in that place and he did not know it, after seeing the angels ascending and descending a ladder in his dreams. These stones of help are landmarks on their journeys of faith.
Unfortunately raising Ebenezers is no longer a spiritual practice. I say unfortunately because this could easily be one of our most practical, life-giving and discipling practices. Even the unintentional shadows of landmarks that make their ways into our lives are often helpful. When we look at pictures or artifacts from a particular point in our lives we find that they have the power to point us back in the right direction. But because they lack intent their power is not often realized, and we find ourselves simply reminiscing about a better time rather than finding our way again.
Before I get to what I think this spiritual practice should look like I want to briefly explore the primary reason it is both necessary and difficult in the modern world. We are not good at taking time nor are we good at reflecting. We are an activity- and productivity-based society, and even when we do slow down it is to be entertained. This makes us very pragmatic and allows us to produce more than all of human history, but we don’t often consider the collateral damage, and we are willing to ignore what might otherwise be considered questionable means. This cycle keeps us from reflection while simultaneously convincing us that reflection is unnecessary/impossible.
So here’s the spiritual practice: Be aware of times when God was in this place but you did not know it, times when you face a difficult choice and you tried to follow God, and times when you recognize that you could only have gotten there by God’s help. When you know one of these things has happened go find a stone and mark it in such a way that it will remind you of that moment, that decision and of God’s faithfulness. Raise an Ebenezer, make a landmark that can point you right when you get lost. Keep raising Ebenezers, marking them for each distinct experience.
Imagine what your life might look like if you did this. Imagine if every time God showed up in an unexpected place or way you had a reminder that God is not bound by our limitations. Imagine if every time you had to make a difficult or confusing decision you had landmarks to help guide you. Imagine if every time you were tempted to take the easy route or give up you had a reminder of what God has done in your life before. Imagine if every time you thought you were beyond redemption you had a reminder of God’s grace.
Try it out, raise an Ebenezer and see what it can do for you in your journey of faith.