I came across a small landmark recently. It noted a name, provided a date. I paused, wondering about the story that must exist behind the small insignia. Who was the individual? What was his story? Why was the fact that something happened on this spot important?
I asked the person I was with if they knew the story. They did not. I asked others at the office I was visiting about the landmark. Nobody had noticed it even though it was on a road frequently used. It was as if the landmark did not exist. I tried to do a bit of research to no avail. The story is, at least for the moment, remains hidden. As I begin to think of other landmarks, including the ones in my history, I wondered how many of the stories that go with them remain hidden, put out of sight.
I am not the first to wonder about the landmarks from the past. Historians often remind us of what we have forgotten or never knew. I am reminded that I should pay more attention unless I want to be stuck in a repeating pattern. The stories contain lessons that continue to teach and reminders that carry hope.
As I take the time to pay attention, I realize that there are landmarks all around me. I may not know the stories, but I can see and read the brief notations. Even though they are there, visible, tangible, it is easy to lose track of the stories of the past. Life demands our attention. There is an underlying urgency to the challenges and problems of the day. It feels like landmarks are optional.
Life invites us to slow down and rediscover the stories within the milestones that mark our past. David’s prayer still echoes in this invitation; “Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God; Rebuild the ancient landmarks!” (Psalm 25.6) I find myself thirsting and longing to slow down and let the stories unfold. It is ironic that something nurturing and inspiring is so difficult to grasp and hold.