Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Test of Camping

[This article is also found on Ada Bible's blog - Sabea at ]

This past summer, my wife and I made an interesting vacation choice. We needed to be in Marquette to move our son into his college dorm and to be with our daughter as she gave birth to our first grandchild. It was a great milestone week for us, but wanting to save some money and feeling a bit adventurous, we decided to camp… in a tent… for six nights… in the temperamental Upper Peninsula weather.

This wasn’t the first time we had tent-camped—we had all the equipment from weekend excursions from the past. But, it had been a few years since our last tent adventure, and six nights was the longest I had ever camped in a tent. There’s a lot of planning and packing that goes into a week in a tent: clothes for all types of weather, coolers and tubs filled with food, chairs, charcoal, tools, and gear. Packing, unpacking, setting up, preparing, living out of bags and tubs.

Everything about camping takes more time and energy: cooking, eating, cleaning, showering. It’s a slow, inconvenient way to live. My wife tells me that’s the allure and beauty of camping. It’s a process that slows you down; it relaxes you.

Honestly, it took me two days to discover that allure.

Camping frustrated me. It created tension in me. Why was I purposely making everything in my life more difficult and time consuming? Why was I trying to live in the very limited shelter of a tent, subject to the elements of weather, constantly battling bugs and dirt in the simplest duties of living? Our first meal was BBQ chicken over an open fire. Seemed like a great idea, but our wood was wet and we fought to keep the fire hot enough. It took two hours to finish cooking. It hardly seemed worth the time and effort. I grumbled through the whole experience.

But after a couple days of struggle, I began to settle into a new rhythm. I became more patient and began to enjoy the process of it all. But, in the end, I was glad to pack it all up and rejoin life with comfort, quickness, and convenience.

As we continue exploring the series on the feasts and festivals of Israel, I’m intrigued by the things that God asks his people to do in their celebration. God gives them physical things to do that were to help them remember and commemorate their past, while celebrating their present state of blessing. In the Feast of Tabernacles, God tells the Israelites to move out of their homes and live in shelters, booths or little tabernacles, for seven days. This was a symbol of remembrance of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert where they lived in tents and God’s presence with them resided in a mobile tabernacle. This was like a national campout!

I think this exercise illustrated two important principles to God’s people.

First, it reminded them that, though their season of wandering was very difficult, God remained present with them—meeting their needs and sustaining them in every way. Second, the exercise reminded them that God had delivered them from the wilderness and was currently blessing them abundantly. They were to see his blessing in the harvest of the crops and grapes they had just gathered. In response, they were to give a gift of gratitude in proportion to God’s unique blessing.

As I think about this festival, I’m left with some significant questions to ponder.

How do I see the “desert” seasons of my life?
How does God lovingly sustain me when my resources are depleted?
How does God love me when I wander?
How are my needs and longings met in times of trial and hardship?

But, there’s another set of questions that this discussion causes me to pursue.

In times of abundance, am I proportionally grateful and proportionally generous?
Or, do I have the propensity—as God blesses me with more—to spend more on myself?

Take some time to reflect on the principles taught through the Feast of Tabernacles. Ponder God’s generous hand with you in the desert times and in the abundant times. Respond to him with generous gratitude.

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