If you are coming to the end of your Hope Focused Couple Counseling with us you might have been introduced to the idea of the Joshua Memorial. This intervention was first introduced by Everett L. Worthington Jr. in the first Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling book (2005). While it refers to an ancient Jewish story, the principles in it apply to any religion or none.
What is the Joshua Memorial?
In the story of Ancient Israel there is an important point in time described in Joshua 4. Before this time, the Israelites had been released from slavery in Egypt after the 10 plagues, had received the 10 commandments, had been protected and provided for by manna in the desert, had betrayed their God's commands, and had wandered in the desert for 40 years. You may have heard or seen a movie of the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground after they were released from slavery. But here at the end of their desert journey they crossed the Jordan River, which is described as God clearing the waters so they walk on dry ground again. This story has great meaning to those in the Abrahamic-based faiths. It's quite a story!
At this moment the people of Israel stopped, and reflected on all that had happened to them. All that their God had done for them, and all they had been through together. They selected 12 stones from the riverbed and made a stone memorial.
How should we look back and remember the hard times, and the ways in which we have traveled through? This is what the story of Joshua teaches about remembrance and memorial:
Joshua 4 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7; New International Version)
There are many teachings, preachings, and writings about this event often called the Gilgal Stones and you can see a video of a tourist group going to see the site here recently. You can google or ask your religious leader for teachings on the subject if you like things like this. Over 3000 years later, people still go to see the place, and talk about them. That's a long memorial!
Looking Back: The Desert Times
The story of a family is a precious and sacred thing. How you met, fell in love, started a life together, had children or built a generous and kind home is likely what gives you meaning. If you sought couple counseling then that precious and sacred life together has been threatened. You have been through a lot. No, really. Pause for a beat and remember the desert. You have been through a lot.
As you get ready for the end of your time of counseling, you can think of it as your forty years in the desert. What has happened that has been really hard for you both? How has your partner/ spouse been courageous and loving and sometimes struggling through that time? How have you endured, experienced pain, been faithful and loved through the time? And what did you learn through it all?
If you are a person of faith, how has your God sustained you individually and together through that time?
Looking Ahead: The Promised Land
We know that there will not always be perfect days ahead. In fact, couples who believe at the end of counseling that they will not face problems again, tend to face more problems than those who believe they will have difficulties but feel equipped to handle them. In the story of Joshua, there were a LOT of problems in their "promised land" including giants (ever heard of David and Goliath?), and wars (their first battle, Jericho was difficult), and divisions among the people. Things weren't perfect in that story, and they won't be perfect for you. But you have been equipped with new tools, ways of thinking, and experiences to face the giants. Joshua's people had their God, and if you are a person of faith you have your God with you too.
There will be a difficult day, maybe soon or maybe months from now. You will wonder where all the good things went that you experienced in couple counseling. A memorial is there to be a physical reminder of your couple counseling experience. A stone of remembrance.
Ponder what you think your "promised land" will look like for you? What will be your giants/ Goliath's that you still will have to face as the years pass? What battles might arise in your lives? How have you been equipped to face those struggles with the tools you have learned here?
Stop and Remember
We think the principles of stopping to remember and make a physical memorial of the end of your counseling experience is important. Just like the story of Joshua, it should be something that points you back to the struggle, and overcoming that you have done in your lives before and during your couple counseling. And it should point forward to your future as a couple and family.
The Joshua Memorial involves putting some significant thought into creating a physical reminder with symbolic meaning of your lives together right now. Some examples of Joshua Memorials that people have done with us before include:
Writing a song about their experience in counseling and singing it in the last session
Creating a craft or artwork with words and concepts from their counseling
Getting a professional picture made as a couple & hanging on the wall
Brewing their own beer and naming it "Hope Beer" with ingredients symbolizing things they learned in counseling
Creating a mosaic tile mirror with colors that symbolize things you have learned in counseling
Stone art fits the theme- to take stones and write on them words that point to the learning you experienced. Put the stones in a basket in the living room.
Getting a new vase and putting it in the corner for flowers to be put into it on special days to remember the couple's love.
Finding a nice scrapbook or box and putting in it their homework sheets, Scriptures, writing out ideas from sessions, and information received in counseling.
There's no limit to what you can do with a Joshua Memorial.
This is to remember and enjoy. It's not to perform and do an "amazing" thing. It's not for one person to do and the other to watch it be done. It doesn't need to be expensive. It should bring you joy to discuss what you have learned, and how you can create a better marriage together.
Feel free to take a picture and share your Joshua memorial with us through email. We share them (anonymously, so no faces please) with the Hope team and keep them and find them to be really encouraging. firstname.lastname@example.org