On Tents

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:4

Camping in Minnesota at the end of November is no joke. Before  you find yourself overly impressed by our cold tolerance, however, I should disclose that it wasn’t really all that cold (for Minnesota, that is — the low temps were still in the double digits), and that we were actually in a very warm and snug camper right in the back yard of some family members.

Still, midnight trips to the necessary through a breezy Minnesota November were less than fun. But there was family, laughter, and love, and there were mornings of quiet beauty as the sun rose scattering pink and gold splashes over the frost-covered fields.

And it did get me thinking…

For most of my life, camping has been a recreational activity enjoyed both when I was young and now with my own husband and children. We have typically camped in nice weather, though once or twice we have had the opportunity of finding out what the freezing point feels like in a tent. However, by and large our camping trips have been only for pleasure.

Except for one, that is.

In the weeks since our trip, I have been reflecting on the nuances of our bodies as tents — temporary dwellings in which we reside on the long journey towards our true home.  In that sense, this tent of mine is more akin to one of military use than the ones our family has used for enjoyment. After all, we who are in Christ are camping, as C. S. Lewis puts it, in “enemy-occupied territory.”

Living in tents behind enemy lines means that there will be times of hardship and difficulty. There will be unpleasantness, conflict, and lack of sleep. Comforts may be minimal or non-existent. At times we may even find ourselves alone or in the midst of enemy troops, far from the support of our fellow soldiers and friends.

At such times, we take comfort that this is not our home; that the tent we shelter within is just that: a tent. It is a temporary and portable shelter and it is not meant to be lived in forever.

For those of us who have been living in these tents for some four decades or more, we may occasionally be dismayed at the condition of our canvas. It may be creased with much use, weather-stained, patched, and may appear increasingly shabby.

No matter — we do our best to maintain it still. However, we can patch and scrub with some joy knowing that the time will come when we lay the tired, old things aside and take residence in our permanent home.

Still, despite the inevitable battles and skirmishes that rage around us while living in the enemy’s country, we can find enjoyment during our stay in these tents.  While we are here, we take a moment to savor the sunrise, to linger over the sight of a single butterfly or the sound of birdsong, to find quiet reminders of the Savior’s love amidst the tumult, to enjoy the company of those who are stationed with us at various points of our mission.

And always, always, we stand firm, enduring the hardship and giving thanks for the wonders of His grace, knowing that our time in this tent is ultimately short.  One day, perhaps sooner than we know, we will be called off the battlefields to our eternal home.  Then, O glorious future day! Then, we will be clothed with life!

Lord, teach us to be steadfast, believing and living in Your promises. Let us not grow weary of doing good; rather we ask that You will help us to persevere, walking faithfully in Your ways and living for Your purposes. Help us, then, to walk wisely during our sojourning here, making the best use of time because the days are evil. If we suffer, remind us that we are sharing in suffering as a good soldier of Christ. May we live and love in His name, amen. 

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