As a child I loved the Beatles song, “We all live in a yellow submarine”. Sounded like a great idea to me at the time. I think I might have actually had a plastic model – one you could play with in the bath. Long gone now. But where do we live? I was set to thinking about this by something I saw this morning.
My morning prayer walk takes me through a local park. Part way through my devotions, a man appeared from nowhere. An angel come to encourage my prayer time? There was no gate into the park here. I was curious. Who was this man? Where had he come from? Where might he be going? He was some distance off and walked away from me, so I did not pursue him. That might of been a bit weird!
Instead, I walked on to the spot where I had first seen him. Lo and behold, there was a tent hidden in a laurel bush. I did not investigate further, but took a picture and turned to find the man out of sight. I’m curious as to who he is, but it occurred to me that we all live in tents. As Paul said,
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–6 NIV11)
Perhaps Paul used this image because he was a tentmaker (Acts 18.3). Perhaps also he had in mind the tabernacle – a temporary structure symbolising God’s dwelling with men, just as our temporary body is a ‘tent’ for the Holy Spirit (Jn 14.17).
My unidentified park tent-dweller has no running water, no electricity and, I’d wager, no heating. It’s getting colder at this time of year and I wonder how much longer he is intending to stay a-tenting. He will feel the cold and the inconvenience. I don’t know if it will make him long for something more comfortable, but I dare say he is aware of what he is missing.
Am I? Am I aware of what I am missing? Aware of what is still to come – what I’m on my way to inherit? Or do the comforts of this world allure too strongly? One of the challenges of the Christian life is to embrace this life in all its fullness, while retaining an eagerness to be prepared for the next life. Perhaps the best way to find the blend of present living with future hope is to read and absorb the Bible. Peter said,
“I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” (2 Peter 1:13–15 NIV11)
He wanted his readers to remember certain things. What are they? Well, let me set you a small task – read 2 Peter and list the issues he wanted remembered. Perhaps this list will keep your tent in order until you lay it aside.
I’ll be through the park again on Thursday. I wonder if the tent will still be there.