On Milestones and the Necessity of Cairns

stonesI’ve had many conversations lately with people who are commemorating significant milestones. Whether it’s celebrating an anniversary, or the recent passing away of a loved one, or retirement from a career of work, or beginning a new career of work, or reaching the point where your grandchild count starts reaching to include great grandchildren, or becoming a recent empty-nester; it seems many of us have meaningful milestones of some sort. These moments give us pause to reflect upon where we have been; and often these moments can give us pause to reflect upon where we are going.

Here in Colorado we recognize the necessity of cairns when hiking in the mountains. A cairn is a pile of rocks set up as a trail marker. This is especially helpful on mountain trails that extend above the tree line where the terrain is barren and void of any other visible markers. A cairn helps hikers know which way to go to stay on the trail.

So as we proceed through life and find those significant milestones of our own experiences, it’s good to stop and set up a cairn. Do something to commemorate and mark this spot along the trail of your life. Whether it’s though journaling your thoughts, taking photos, throwing a party, or participating in a memorial service; don’t let the moment pass without somehow marking this place in the journey. Here are a few reasons why it’s important:

  1. Cairns help us see what’s ahead by being able to see where we’ve been. Vision and goals for the future are important. It’s important as a church, but it’s also important individually. In times where we might struggle to know where we are going, take a look behind you and see where you’ve been.
  2. Cairns help those behind us see the trail ahead. Chances are that you are not blazing a brand new trail, but you have the guidance of mentors and others in your life that have traveled this journey of life ahead of you. And you now benefit from those people who intentionally set up cairns along the way for us to see. You have the opportunity as well to mark the trail for others coming behind you.
  3. Cairns help us find our way back, when necessary. Okay, sometimes we unintentionally get off the trail and need to find our way back before becoming lost. Cairns help us in those moments of life when we need to return to a point-of-reference before continuing forward.

In Joshua 4, God commands Joshua to have the Israelites set up a cairn of twelve stones by the spot where the people crossed the Jordan River. It serves as a memorial for the people of Israel to remember God’s faithfulness in their journey. In 1 Samuel 7, the prophet sets up a stone for the people that he calls Ebenezer which simply means “stone of help.” And Samuel says, “This far the LORD has helped us.” In the milestones of life that we achieve, find a way to take that milestone and turn it into a cairn as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

till next time,

~ pastor tom