Many years ago at our home in Colorado we hosted some long-time friends and during a conversation, I admitted that I’ve not been especially patient as a parent and had lost my temper on not a few occasions during the years our kids were growing up. In turn, my friend shared with me an incident from years ago when his parental anger resulted in an airborne chair that landed on the edge of a piece of tile, leaving a sharp edge on the landing coming into their home.
Each time we visited their home I saw that broken tile and was careful not to step on it, but never knew the story behind it. In the back of my mind I wondered why he would not just fix it; after all, it’s just one small piece of tile!
It turns out that he told his wife he would never fix that tile because it would serve to remind him of his anger at that moment and the potential damage it could do to his family. As we exchanged our stories, I was struck by his transparency and authenticity in allowing that broken tile to remind him (and everyone present at that angry moment) of how important it is to remain patient. What hit me most was how I had not been as transparent with my life in the area of anger.
This broken tile reminded me of other moments in Israel’s history used to help them recall their need for God in times of need. For example, after God had given victory over the Philistines, Samuel set up an “ebenezer” to remind the Israelites of their need for God’s help. 1 Samuel 7:12-13 reads:
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines.
“Ebenezer” literally is “stone of help” (transliterated Even Haazer, “even” = stone; “ezer” = help). Samuel used a visual reminder, just as my friend did, that God’s help is required to succeed in life, whether as a parent or as a benefactor of fulfilled promises.
Also, immediately after crossing the Jordon river and moving into the promised land, Joshua commands that a reminder be erected so all Israel will remember their constant need for God’s help. Joshua 4:4-7 says:
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.
Even though we’re empty nesters some 20 years now, I still wonder how relationships in my family may have been different today had I kept a visual reminder before me like that broken tile.