The Ebenezer stone was precious, even though it was erected in the middle of a mess.
Samuel (1 Sam 7:10) stands up the Ebenezer stone saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." They had just been granted a big deliverance from and victory over the Philistines (after 20 years of failure), and they now have a big chunk of the promised land. They called on the LORD, instead of trying to do it all in their own strength, and he answered. They had "done good", and they had done it by the LORD's mercy.
The moment deserved to be commemorated. Their thankfulness was utterly appropriate. Their worship was timely.
And soon they called for God to let them follow a king instead of him. Soon they chased after idols. Soon they followed Saul into pride. Later they let their idolatry offend God so much the North and then the South were carried into captivity. After such glory and promise, their story continued to be filled to the top and overflowing with shame.
After centuries of loss, after all the pain and shame, they returned from Babylon to Israel. The Ebenezer stone was still standing there.
What were they to make of that stone 500 years later, after 500 years of shame and failure, 500 years of shattered promise?
Did that stone now testify against them? Did it mock them? Did it, 500 years later, tell them "no further will God help you, after all you've done"?
I look back, and my life is filled with forgotten Ebenezers, moments that the LORD delivered me by grace and following moments when I failed all over again. There are many of those places God fought to turn me toward Him, to grow me toward truth, and where he succeeded only to have me find some new way to fail all over again. There are many places I grew toward him and not away, only to fail all over again.
I have hid my face in shame from those pregnant moments all these years. I could not bear to remember the face plant following each of them. I remember where the LORD took my hand and brought me "thus far" only to watch me stumble again from the path.
It helps a little to see each Ebenezer as, rather than a boundary, a mile marker. I can hold my progress "thus far" precious as I remember the markers laid down those sad years ago, and remember mile marker flowed after mile marker. If I can remember each Ebenezer, maybe I can believe there's another left to me, somewhere out there, another place to which the LORD will take further.
Perhaps, God still has a beautiful plan for my life.