As I've been reading the Bible in Margaret Feinberg's 40 Day Bible Reading Challenge, I've been struck by the physicality of our faith. Our Christian faith is one that's very much attached to people and places. It is physical, tangible, and real.
Throughout the Old Testament, when something significant happens in a place, God's people build an altar of remembrance out of stones. That physical altar then becomes a tangible reminder of the often unseen yet spiritually significant thing that happened at that place.
Is it any wonder then that our physical things sometime hold spiritual memories for us?
I thought about this yesterday as a donation truck picked up our old green sofa set. This furniture set has been ours for just short of a decade. It was the first piece of furniture my husband and I actually bought for ourselves rather than inherited from someone else. It's certainly been well-loved during the time we've had it. So well-loved, I might add, that it's actually been broken for the last two years. Even so, I found myself strangely emotional as this inanimate object was carried out of my house for the very last time.
This couch, for better or worse, holds a great deal of memories for us.
We've celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas' on this couch. Our families and our friends have spent countless hours on this couch.
Countless people have sat on this couch during parties, get-togethers, youth ministry events, and small groups.
I've trained adult leaders on this couch.
We've sat with friends on this couch and listened to their stories of heartbreak.
We've sat with friends on this couch and listened to their stories of joy. From this couch, we've toasted engagement announcements, celebrated upcoming marriages with showers, and blessed new moms with gifts.
On this couch, we've discussed and debated every aspect of faith imaginable – with friends, leaders, and students. We've dug into and wrestled with Scripture – even the parts we don't like. And from the comfort of my oversized green chair, I've seen God move in countless ways.
I've spent hours in prayer on this couch – sometimes alone, sometimes together with my husband, and oftentimes with our closest friends in our small group.
We've eaten a ridiculous amount of meals on this couch surrounded by friends and family.
My husband and I have also made many decisions on this couch. On it, we've chosen jobs, debated the wisdom of career opportunities, and decided to return to school.
We've also grieved from this couch. On a cold November morning in 2004, I sat on this couch as my mom told me my Grandpa had died. Just two years later, this couch held me as I cried when my Grandma was diagnosed with ALS. The following year, it provided a safe place for my husband and I to mourn his job loss. And earlier this year, I laid on this couch for days, surrounded by family, close friends, and Franklin the cat, grieving the loss of our baby.
This couch may not be built of stones like the Old Testament altars were, but it is every bit as connected to my spiritual life as I suspect those altars were for our Old Testament heroes of faith.
Yet, here's what I know as a Christian living in the 21st century that our Old Testament heroes of faith did not. Though important – maybe even critical – for sustaining our collective memory of faith, those stone altars were only a foretaste of what was to come. For as 1 Peter 2 says, we are, each of us, in actuality, living stones.
So sure. Stone altars were and are important. They help connect the unseen with that which is visible.
But what's even more important is us: The living stories.
So it is with my couch. It was and is important because it's been a place where significant events have unfolded.
But the couch isn't the real story.
My husband is.
Our family and friends are.
Our leaders are.
Our students are.
These are the real stories because they are the living stones, in whom God is very much at work; In whom God will continue to work.
So may we always fondly remember the seemingly inconsequential places – like this couch - that are deeply connected to our faith.
But may we never forget that the real place in which God is working is us.