My husband’s cheerful voice on the other end of the line said, “I found a cool piece of wood.”
I answered with an indifferent “OK,” but he continued, untouched by my disinterest. I listened, but my mind circled with questions. What in the world am I going to do with junk wood he found in the recesses of the warehouse?
When Steve got home, however, I was caught speechless. Six long planks, soiled and stained, held together by tongue-and-groove joints, scarred by work but flat like the surface of a table. The seven-foot giant held a commanding presence. This was a super cool piece of wood.
I helped him heave it from the truck bed up against a wall in our garage. We stood together marveling that this beauty had been under our noses for twenty years, in a warehouse filled with machinery and dirt where my husband was growing a business. We remained in silent reflection, until my emotions and ideas bubbled up. With one hand on my hip and the other gesturing enthusiastically, I declared this piece of wood was our Ebenezer. Steve listened patiently as I began teaching a Bible lesson.
In 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites again find themselves up against the Philistine army. The people, frozen in terror, wait as Samuel offers a sacrifice. As the Philistines draw near to attack, God thunders with a mighty sound and confuses them. Israel defeats the Philistines.
Ahh, sweet victory.
But it’s what Samuel does next that I love. He takes a stone and names it “Ebenezer,” which means “the stone of help.” “Till now the Lord has helped us,” he tells the people. God had begun to help them, and it was an enduring help.
After my sermonette, Steve and I looked at the reflections of God’s help through the windows of our past and agreed—this junk piece of wood was our Ebenezer.
It was still there in the garage, untouched, when two months later a stranger arrived with devastating news. Steve had been killed in a car accident. Coming home from work, my husband lost control of his truck when a tire blew out. I was a widow at 48. My heart, shattered, felt like the embers of a fire begging to go out.
Then in perfect timing, God’s Word came to my rescue and flamed the flickering coals. “My soul clings to the dust, give me life according to your word,” I read in Psalm 119.
God was giving words to my grief. My soul was clinging to the dust and I was unable to rise above it, and in black and white print, God’s Word was narrating it. The Bible wasn’t underestimating the significance of my loss, but rather the Word was perfectly describing it. God saw my condition and was giving me language for my anguish. I remember thinking, what a loving act it was for God to give me the words to pray.
With my hands folded, I broke out of grief’s silence and prayed Psalm 119 for eleven months.
When God’s Word resonates with our condition, it is the living God speaking to us. It is evidence that the Most High God sees us, observes us, and contemplates us. When a finite creature is seen by an infinite God, that creature will bow in a dependence that allows him to see God in his glory.
As I meditated on Psalm 119, the promises of God became more pronounced. God’s insight into my condition was imprinting promises on my heart. A divine exchange began to occur. My sorrow was being exchanged for his promises. It is the promises of God and our faith in them that allow us to experience God despite our circumstances. God was and is my enduring help.
I took that junk wood and made a memorial of God’s help into a kitchen table. It serves as an ever-present reminder that God is my personal abiding help. I am sitting at it now writing this essay. This wood that was wrecked through the passage of time has been pampered and polished into artwork the family will gather around for generations—our Ebenezer.
– Amy Richards is a freelance writer and staff member at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur.