There is something therapeutic about sharing one of your most embarrassing moments with the world. At least, that’s the idea I’m starting out with today. Let’s see if I’m right.
It was 1995. I was a wide-eyed college freshman and first-time car owner. Technically my dad owned it, of course, but it was my car. A 1990 Geo Prizm that sported a hatchback. I had wheels. (Cue the “Oh Yeah” song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Mine was light blue, but you get the idea from this picture:
I named her Prissy. I drove her all over my college town of Florence, Alabama, finally free from relying on the good-will of my friends.
One spring afternoon, I grabbed a McDonald’s hamburger for lunch (the food of champions, as far as I was concerned), and parked my little car in the dormitory parking lot for the afternoon.
Later that day, on my way to ensemble practice, I headed straight for the parking place I had snagged earlier. I looked around, feeling panicky. Where was my car?!? I surveyed the entire dormitory parking lot, to no avail. Rational thought falling by the wayside, I immediately determined that my Geo Prizm had been stolen. That’s right. Lifted right out of the parking lot by some villainous thieves who had coveted the awesomeness of my hatchback. They had taken my Prissy from me, and I would never see her again.
I rushed back to my dorm room, emotions rising and heart pounding. Following through on my knee jerk response, I reached for the phone and made several calls…to my parents, to the director of the ensemble who sympathetically said he would tell all of my friends and they would pray for me, and to the police. Yes. I called the police to report a stolen car. They calmly told me they were on their way.
I rushed to the elevator and pushed the down arrow button to go meet the police. Alone, in that rickety old elevator on the way down, my rational thought, which had been rudely shoved aside earlier, began to make itself heard. Loudly.
“Jennifer,” it said. “You drove to the library on campus after you got back from McDonald’s. And you WALKED back to the dorm. Remember?”
I wanted to slump to the floor of the elevator. My friends still tease me to this day.
Few things make me more aggravated at myself than forgetting something. It is a trait common to mankind, bestowed more prominently on some than others. No one remembers everything all the time. That’s why the inventor of Post-It notes made a fortune. People forget keys, important dates, items that should have been packed, meetings, groceries, and, as I’ve just proven, where they park their cars. It’s as if our brains can only hold so much information…anything over and above that set limit is subconsciously labeled “FORGET,” against our wills. We certainly don’t want to forget important things, but sometimes they fall through the mental cracks. Human beings are limited.
Sometimes, people forget the big things, too.
The people of the Old Testament, who notoriously walked away from those Ten Commandments, knew that they were prone to forgetfulness. On several occasions, the Bible records instances in which they set up piles of rocks called “standing stones,” (the first Post-It notes), to remind them of some great work that God had done. The old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” says, “Here I raise mine ebneezer, hither by they help I’m come.”
I always thought the word “ebeneezer” sounded so antiquated and strange. I had never heard it used alongside anything other than Scrooge. But it means this:
"Stone of help, the place where Samuel erected a monument, in grateful remembrance of the divine help, given in answer to prayer, in a great battle with the Philistines. The same place had before witnessed the defeat of Israel and the capture of the ark." (1 Samuel 4:1; 5:1; 7:5-12)
Source: Smith’s Bible Dictionary
So in modern terms, that line in the hymn means, “Here I put up my monument to God’s faithfulness in my life. It’s only by his help that I’ve come this far, and I don’t ever want to forget it.”
My mom says, “Never forget in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.” That means, put up some ebeneezers here and there…you never know when you’re going to need them. They might be big rock piles (figuratively speaking), the results of dramatic, life-altering events. But sometimes they’re just your own small reminders that the hand of God is at work. Either way, we would do well to dot our life-landscapes with them, very intentionally.
I raised an ebeneezer on that day in 1995…not just because my car had not been stolen by villainous thieves, but also because I learned a humbling lesson about jumping to conclusions, one that I still need and have never forgotten.
Sometimes I put up my rock piles by writing them down. But they could just as easily be shared verbally, meditated upon, or raised up in some other creative way. The point is that we remember, just as Jesus gave us the bread and the cup by which we remember His sacrifice for us. Forget your keys…forget your entire car…but don’t forget to raise your ebeneezer. It’s hither by His help you’ve come.