Living in Tents

29Sep10

Six weeks of silence.

I do have an explanation.

This happens to be part of it. :-)

I moved out of my parents’ home a month ago.  While I didn’t move into a literal tent, the metaphor of “living in tents” is something that has really shaped this whole experience.  But let me begin at the beginning…

Since late spring, I’d been thinking about how/when/where I could move out.  It wasn’t a question of “if” anymore – it was something I knew needed to happen (though there were a lot of roadblocks that God had to remove).  So I began looking at the “obvious” answers – like renting an apartment in the town where I grew up.  Close to work, close to home, but a place of my own.  I figured I wanted a place all to myself – just to see what it was like. :-)  Then SMI happened and I began to think about what it would look like to move to Philly.  To buy a house.  Of my own.  Never mind what I would do with it when I went overseas – God is fully capable of handling such mundane details. :-)  The particular neighborhood where we did SMI was where I wanted to live – I saw God at work (in the neighborhood and in my own heart) during those brief two weeks, and I wanted to join what He was about.  I knew it would be affordable and that buying a house was definitely feasible.  But I wanted a place all my own.  Of that much I was sure.

You all know where this is going, right?

This summer in Sunday School, we two proctors taught through Hebrews 11.  Each of us would teach every other Sunday, and it just so happened that Miss N, the other proctor, was teaching about Abraham the Sunday after my car died.  I was, as usual, providing crowd control – but listening at the same time.  The kids listed all the reasons they could think of that would garner Abraham a spot on the “Faith Hall of Fame,” but none of them came up with the reason that became the most significant to me.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

(Hebrews 11:8-10, emphasis added)

As Miss N read, I mentally smacked my forehead.

“What have I been thinking?!”

God stopped me in my tracks.  I’d been thinking about me. I hadn’t been thinking about His kingdom, His glory, His calling on my life, or obeying Him.  I’d been thinking only about me.  Ugh.  I’d been thinking about what I could call my own.  What I would do with something once it was mine. How I would go about getting my own place.  There were two things I knew once I realized how twisted my mind had become – I knew God did not want me to have a place of my own and I knew that I needed to say “yes” to a friend who’d asked about being roommates.  I needed to live in a “tent.”

A tent, in my mind, was a temporary dwelling; a place that could be easily set up and easily taken down.  A tent would prove at times to be flimsy against the elements.  It would be cramped, wet when it rained, cold in the winter, and hot in the summer.  Tents are usually set up on the bare ground – no foundation, no carpeting, no homey comforts.  But I knew I needed to live in one, figuratively speaking.

So I told my friend I was “in” and we began to look for a place to live.  Fortunately she also wanted to live in the same neighborhood in North Philly, but I was resigned to the fact that she would be the one renting or owning and I would be the one invited to live with her for a time – not the other way around.  (Of course, this also makes far more logical sense, as she has a job in North Philly and will be here at least two years, but one doesn’t like to consider logic too much in these sorts of things.)  I looked at it as being excellent preparation for the transition to living overseas – and as a way for me to learn to call nothing my own except Jesus.

Our search for a “place” (well, I should really say HER search for a place, because she did all the work) was rather laid back.  Our only time constraint was the lease she had in West Philly, which was up at the end of August.  She seriously looked at several houses, but nothing seemed quite right.  We had a wonderful potential place, but before we finalized anything, that fell through.  By the second week of August, we were both mildly concerned but still trusting the Lord to bring us a place that would be ready for occupancy within two weeks.  In the midst of all this uncertainty (and other uncertainties), I kept coming back to one thing – “Lord, be my all.  You are enough, you are everything.  Show yourself strong in me.”  And it seemed each day one or two bits of Scripture spoke to my heart…

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.  […]  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

(Jeremiah 29:7, 11-13)  (Remember this one?  It was one of my passages for 2010…)

And the story of the Rechabites, who would not drink wine and who lived in tents because of a promise – and God blessed them for honoring Him.

Then God decided to use another flat tire to show me the most important piece of living in tents.  I have no idea how this flat tire happened, but it happened on my way to the beach, in the rain, and I was wearing a sundress and heels.  Yup.  And the lug nut wrench in my Grandma’s Subaru was the wrong size for the lug nuts on the car.  I’m not kidding.  (Could I make something like that up?!)  Anyway, God sent two angels in another Subaru to help me get the spare tire on.  I made it to the beach (flashers on for most of the way since I couldn’t go above 50mph) and got several good nights of sleep before venturing to the nearest Walmart.

The Walmart Tire & Auto waiting room.  It’s where God speaks to everyone, right?  I had my Bible and journal with me, so after buying cereal, bread, and milk (the necessities of life), I sat down to wait.  I opened my Bible, and here’s what I read:

15 A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right

and speaks truth in his heart;

3 who does not slander with his tongue

and does no evil to his neighbor,

nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,

but who honors those who fear the Lord;

who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

5 who does not put out his money at interest

and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

“So I’m not just ‘living in tents,'” I wrote in my journal.  “I’m living in the tent of the Lord!  It’s not that I’m giving up and settling for a burlap sack stretched over a rickety wood frame.  It’s not even a nice Coleman 4-person tenth.  Not even the ‘Taj Mahal’ of a tent we used to borrow to camp as a family.  Giving up MY plans for housing means living in the Lord’s tent (how silly that I assumed I would own (!) the sorry excuse for a tent I’d built in my imagination!  Silly!)!”

And then I began to daydream about what God’s tent would look like.  And I imagined, of course, a wedding tent.  Huge, lavishly decorated, comfortable, a feast, lots of people, a party, cushions, curtains…

“The good thing about a tent,” I continued writing, “is that it moves easily… it’s mobile.  Lord, help me be mobile for you!  Wherever you want me to go!!”

I got back into the blue Subaru (new tire and all) with a totally different mindset.

And my friend found an apartment.  In North Philly.  In “our” neighborhood.

We signed the lease and moved in about a week later.

God gave me two more little tidbits in the interim.  First, His own dwelling among men was, for many years, a large tent.  The Tabernacle.  And second, He is now at work, all over the world, building something far greater than a tent, in which He plans to dwell for all eternity.  I am part of that building.  He is building His church.

“For through [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18-22)

Hurrah for living in tents!

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2 Responses to “Living in Tents”

  1. 1 Jeremy

    Literally living in a tent (the ones you can set up or break down in 2 minutes) is quite different for a number of reasons…

  2. 2 Susanna

    I often wonder what God is preparing me for… and whether or not it actually includes a literal tent – more like the ones you’re talking about. I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up living in a tent someday. And you’re quite right. It’s quite different. But it’s also quite exciting…


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