Sometimes the Tent is the Last Place I Want to Be
I love camping. I love it so much that not too long ago my husband, youngest son, and I spent six months traveling in a RV (but those are stories for another time). Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I’ve slept on the ground, but I grew up tent camping as a Girl Scout and with my family.
When I was a child, our family vacations often included camping; in fact, some of my best childhood memories are from those adventures. More than once, Dad drove us out to the far end of Mustang Island where we pitched our tents for the weekend. We’d slather on the sunscreen and play in the waves. We’d hunt for sand dollars, feed the seagulls, build sandcastles, and watch the bivalves wiggle their way deeper into the sand after the surf uncovered them.
And then in the evening, after taking an ineffective shower at the shower house and getting sandy all over again on our trek back to the campsite, we’d settle in for the night.
Mom kept a bucket of water outside our tent so we could rinse off our feet and not track in that powdery, sticky, Texas beach sand. We’d unzip the tent and try to close it as quickly as possible to keep the wind from blowing in more sand and mosquitoes. And then we’d try to sleep.
But I never could.
The wind beat against the tent and made the flaps whip erratically on the walls. I remember thinking that if the sound was rhythmic, maybe I could sleep. But it wasn’t rhythmic; it was annoying.
Added to the sound was my preteen worry. The noise caused by the wind was so loud that I was sure that if someone were walking up to our tent to attack or kidnap my sister and me, we wouldn’t be able to hear them coming.
Then a mosquito would whine in my ear. (How can something so tiny be so loud?!) I’d turn over and try to cover my head with my sheet, only to feel the grit of the sand that clung to and scraped my sunburned skin.
I just could not rest in the tent. For all the fun I always had at the beach, our tent was the last place I wanted to be.
As long as we’re living in the tent, ‘We make it our aim to please him.’
It’s not surprising to me that Paul uses the analogy of a tent when he compares our earthly life to eternity. Look at this retelling from The Message from the beginning of 2 Corinthians 5:
“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our ‘tents’ again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration.
“Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.”
Paul felt the pull between this life and our eternal home. He wanted to be around for the people he loved and anticipating the joy ahead, he was ready for Heaven.
But Paul also knew that for as long as he was living in his tent, he had a job to do. And so do we!
“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:8–9, ESV)
If we are living with an eternal perspective, our aim, like Paul’s, must be to please Jesus. That means we have to look at everyone the way Jesus does—not according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16) but with a realization that we are eternal beings bound for an eternal life of joy and peace and love… or one of the eternal desperation that comes from not knowing Jesus.
Our job—and one of the ways we can please Jesus—is to introduce others to Him by sharing not only His Word but also how knowing Him makes a difference in our own lives. Sometimes we do that in words, but many times it’s through our actions that people meet Jesus. One question that has been on repeat in my mind lately is this: Do my words and actions (or reactions) draw others to Jesus? Life isn’t always pretty, and the way I respond to it reflects what I believe. The same is true for all of us who know Him.
While we live in these tents, we are assured, by Jesus Himself, that we will have hardships, pain, suffering, and sorrow. Sometimes the tent will be the last place you want to be, but Jesus reminds you and me that He has overcome the world. It’s that promise that can turn our everyday tent stories into messages of hope.