There is something burning in me that wants to leave a mark. I hear an old country song somewhere in my memory that whales plaintively to a former lover, “Please remember me.” I want my life to count and to be remembered. Becoming a cipher is a fate worse than hell.
Annie Dillard in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek writes:
The books I read are like the stone men built by the Eskimos of the great desolate tundras west of Hudson’s Bay. They still build them today, according to Farley Mowat. An Eskimo traveling alone in flat barrens will heap round stones to the height of a man, travel till he can no longer see the beacon, and build another.
Much of my spritual trek has been in the wilderness. It has had a barreness about it. At times I feel I walk around in a trance like state—-just putting one foot in front of the other. Not really aware of where I am and what I am doing. It is like I am in some sort of spiritual stupor. But perhaps whether I know it or not, I am moving towards my destination. If I believe in a God who has all things in His hands, then I should be confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it. He knows where I am and I am on schedule.
The Eskimos stacked the stones to find their way home. What if my home is not behind me? What if I am moving towards a city whose builder and maker is God? I don’t leave stacks of stones to get back, rather, I pile them high so that those behind may find their way.
‘When your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ … Answer them…” Joshua 4:7
I have three sons and a grandson. They will live their lives uniquely following Jesus. Theirs won’t be my exact path. But they will move in the same direction, for we are all headed to that city. Should I stack some stones? Or build a beacon fire? I am further along the way. Am I leaving cairns that will aid in their journey?
I find great comfort knowing that there is a 70 year old man in the mountains of Colorado living an eternal kind of life. His path has taken surreptitious routes at times; but nonetheless he is ahead of me and I can see where I am going. For here is one of his cairns called “faith.” There is one named “strength.” I see another one called “perseverance.” This last one says “wisdom.”
Cormac McCarthy speaks to this in the last paragraph in his book No Country for Old Men,
I had two dreams about my father after he died. I don’t remember the first one all that well but it was about meetin him in town somewheres and he give me some money and I think I lost it. But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Going through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothing. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.
Guess I better gather some wood and stack some stones.