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Gilgal – A Heritage Remembrance

By Melanie Atkinson Wayne


One of my favorite messages I ever heard my daddy, Pastor Tony Atkinson, deliver was a message about Gilgal, the place where the Israelites built memorials of remembrance. I was young–middle-school aged, but I remember it like it was yesterday. He hauled big rocks to the front of the sanctuary and built a “Gilgal” memorial as he told the story of Joshua 4.

As the Lord instructed the children of Israel to tell the story over and over of how He delivered them from Egypt’s bondage by His mighty hand, my daddy told those same stories to our church. He then challenged the church family: “Build your Gilgal places as you go along life’s journey. Remember the God-things that have brought you to this place today. Make a point to tell those stories to your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren.”

Melanie Atkinson Wayne and her family. Melanie serves as the worship pastor at Christian Life International Church in Salem, Virginia.

As I think about that, I am aware that his message (and diligent, daily investments from my amazing parents) instilled in me a gratefulness and remembrance for those in my family who have served the Lord with great dedication. Because of them, I have a rich heritage in the Lord. As I reflect on the generations of my grandparents and their parents, I realize that my heritage includes two pastors, a hard-working farmer, a business owner, servicemen, a factory worker, professors, educators, and amazing homemakers and parents. Every one of them were and still are diligent stewards of the life they were given by their Creator.  They have lived and are living lives that honor God in everything.

Perfect people? None of us are. Diligent stewards aiming for the high call? Yes! I am so grateful!

Come visit one of my Gilgal stops with me. This is one that the Lord brought me to a few years ago on a hot July evening in Piedmont, Virginia–sitting under the open-sided tabernacle at Piedmont Camp Meeting, listening to the message and the river babbling beside us, watching children play quietly beside parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. All of these generations, and so many more represented, under one tabernacle, listening to the Word together. It was in that moment that a renewed thankfulness began welling up in my heart. I sat there listening to the message, hoping and praying that my 7-year-old son didn’t lose his grip on the baby frog he had brought to church, when the beauty of heritage hit me. Seated several rows in front of me I saw my great uncle and aunt, Ed and Lois Henson. Immediately, I thought about the impact that Uncle Ed’s decision to attend, and eventually be employed by, Emmanuel College had on my life story. From that decision, an incredible life path was beginning to be cut! There he met his wife, Lois (Atkinson) Henson. Their daughter, Kathy, became dear friends with my mama, Sharon (Hartsfield) Atkinson. On a visit to Virginia with Kathy, she met my daddy, Tony Atkinson, and the rest is history.

All from ONE decision! A Spirit-led decision? Certainly. But, a decision nonetheless. Today, I am thankful that Uncle Ed was and is a God-fearing man who has sought the Lord for these and countless other decisions.

The choices we make not only affect us, our personal story, and that of our children. Just think of how much one decision affects the generations to come, like that of my Uncle Ed! Many doors will open to us throughout our lives. How will we decide? Will we make decisions based on selfish desires or will we seek the Lord for direction, not only for us but for those who come after us? Where will these decisions lead us and our families? What a great responsibility we have! That responsibility can be a great weight and can overwhelm us, if we aren’t careful to heed His Word. But, here is the peace and confidence that I find from His Word:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105 NKJV).

“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:5 ESV).

“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring” (Is. 58:11 NLT).

Diligence, integrity, compassion, gratefulness and a dedication to the Lord, family, and the body of Christ–all of these are priceless traits that come from a strong, godly heritage. They must continue to be lived out and passed down to the next generation.

“For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name” (Ps. 61:5 ESV).

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4 ESV).

With these great truths in mind, here is my greatest realization: My story isn’t my story at all! If we are created to bring glory to Him, then our story is a part of HIS great story…all written to bring Him glory. For the generations before us, the generations of today, and the generations still to come, it is all a part of the great story that God is writing to bring all glory and fame to Himself!

We all have Gilgal places. As we visit these places, we remember that some rocks represent seasons of great hurt, mistakes, sadness, or pain. Other rocks will represent joyful and victorious seasons. And still, others will represent the slow and steady walk of faithful dedication to the Lord. No matter what those rocks represent, either great or small in our eyes, they ultimately represent a place in our story–our God-story.

It is my prayer that these words will spark a desire in your heart to pause and visit your “Gilgal” places with a heart of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for His faithfulness to all generations.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:6-7 ESV).

Photo Credits: Melanie Atkinson Wayne

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