It’s my last day in the tent . . . at least for the season. But, will there even be a next?
My husband says it is time to take the tent down for the season and I know it is. Winter winds are already staking their claim by biting at our lingering plants; I rescued a fragile lavender rosebud to spare it from frost last night. But today is one last glorious day to enjoy my tent! The air is crisp, yet the sun is warm and there’s a light breeze blowing intermittently mixing warm and cool. One last day that I can go out in the tent and enjoy beauty of the season. In my tent, I feel a little secluded, protected (especially from bugs), safe, and comfortable. While stretched out, waiting for sleep on my plump air mattress, I enjoy the Fall-fresh air gently kissing my cheek and the sun falling across and warming my bare feet. How can I ever, ever explain what “tent time” for this season has meant?! How can a simple tent have such a profound impact on my life? In the most humbling way, I cannot even begin to do justice with words to the emotions and senses I experienced.
This Summer had been a challenging and exhilarating period for me and I was mentally drained. I had a close friend ask me what I did to recharge and I shared. “I go to my tent.” She asked me what I did in the tent and I told her, “Read, rest, write, and mostly just be.” She said it was beautiful. She understood the sacredness of the space.
Originally we set up the tent up for a staycation with my daughter. We never even made it all the way through the night. Even though rain wasn’t expected, rain we got. We were rained out, not because the rain was a problem outside the tent, but some of it found its way inside the tent. Rain was dripping directly on us and while I am not opposed to sleeping out in the rain, I am opposed to a soppy sleeping bag. Brrr. We survived it until the early morning hours; when the rain let up, we surrendered, ran inside, and called it a night.
The tent stayed up and I went out for fresh air, here and there. No bugs! Once, I decided to take a nap. Another time I went out at night to see the stars and curled up in the tent until I got cold and came in. During a long writing project, I powered up the tent which was a comedic drama in itself, and camped out for a writing stint.
My husband unceremoniously moved the tent, over and over and over again, to mow. Our yard looks like a chessboard with patches of green around rectangular segments of brownish mostly dead grass. He loves me. He “sees” me. Somehow he knew the time in the tent was feeding my soul.
I found myself craving tent time and rearranging my day to get some. I would check the weather forecast and plan time to sneak away to my tent. Once I realize that the tent had become a thing, I ask God what it was about. Yes I loved clubhouses when I was a child. I’m sure that was part of it, but there was something much, much more. The nearest word I can use to describe what my tent became to me is Tabernacle. I felt fully alive in my tent. He met me there. The air hot, cold, chilly or otherwise refreshed my soul. When inside the tent, the outside dramas of my life stopped screaming and I had peace.
Not always though. Once, as the weather change quickly, the wind became nasty and vicious. I felt assaulted in the tent. The vinyl heaved and snapped furiously. At times the open flaps cracked like a whip. Several times my usually comfortable air mattress moved. The wind was so forceful it blew underneath the tent flooring and lifted the edge of the mattress that I was on! There is nothing like getting shoved around by the wind, inside your tent! STOP it! I reminded God I came looking for peace and the wind was being a tormentor. Angrily, I decided to add wind speed to temperature and rain criteria for weather watching predictions for tent time.
The zipper was rattling like a burglar breaking in and the tent felt like it had a group of bullies circling around it, punching the tent here then there, geering, and shaking it to its foundation. Lord, I came for peace and this is what I get; a major alarm in my spirit? Make it STOP! I’m scared!
I remembered that week in my small group, we looked at the verse in Mark where the wind and waves kicked up to the point the disciples thought they would die. Jesus commanded the wind and waves to be still and they were. I wanted the scary wind to be still but it . . .would . . .not . . . relent!
With my heart palpitating I cried out to Him to calm the storm in me.
Soon I had the sensation of drifting on a calm water, afloat on my air mattress. I was aware of the wind battering the tent, but somehow it seemed still now. The stillness was in me and around me. I could hear the noise but not hear it as I was so relaxed I was nearly dozing off to sleep! The quiet in me was louder than the noise around me. I laid there in utter amazement of this profound experience. If only . . . if only God would give me the grace to apply this peace to live outside the tent. If only I could have Him calm me and I would stay peacefully afloat in the midst of external chaos. This is what I seek. This is why I’ve come to the tent, day after day.
But today is the last time I’ll take one more nap in the sacred space. I’ll have one more last rendezvous with God here. Then the air will go out of me as I let the air out of the mattress. The tent will get compacted and stored for the season. I’m afraid I’ll cry like a baby. I’m losing something that I can’t fully explain. Seasons of grace like these are precious and there’s no guarantee that there will be a next year. Or, if the tent does get pitched again, that the specialness will be still be there.
What I realize is what have, I take with me. What He gave, goes with me. For today, goodbye. I will look for the next gift of encounter and provision of sacred space. When you seek Him, you will find Him . . . sometimes in the most common of places.