I have tents on the brain this week. Next weekend I’m taking my Girl Guide unit camping for the first time, but not, thank heaven, in one of these!
This is the kind of tent that I used to camp in back when I was a guide. It had two very sturdy wooden poles supporting a ridge pole and was made of a heavy green canvas that always smelled slightly damp.
In the picture God showed me this week, the tent was set for daytime, with its doors unlaced and tied back and its walls rolled up to let air circulate all the way through and blow away the dampness of the night.
I’ve been pondering and praying today about what God might be saying to me through this picture. Perhaps you could tell me what it says to you, but this is where I’m up to:
In brick or block built house, all the strength is in the walls, the boundaries. take them away and the floors and roof would fall, leaving no house… In this tent, all the strength is in the centre, on two posts and the ridge, and in the main guys, which hold those poles in place.
Because in this kind of tent the walls play no part in holding the whole thing together, it’s possible to roll them up and store them out of the way. So in the daytime it’s possible for people to crawl into the shelter of the roof from any direction, not just through the doorway. The walls are just not as important as the poles.
I wonder if God is saying to us that some of us are treating our lives (and our churches) as though they were brick built houses, with all the weight being carried by the boundaries. We fear that if we shift those boundaries, or roll them back to allow more people ‘in’, the whole thing will come tumbling down. But in this picture all the weight is carried at the centre. And as long as those weight-bearing poles are held in position, the walls are actually optional.
A lot of the Christian writing I’ve read lately seems to be more concerned with the walls than the poles. Who can be ‘in’ and who not. I wonder if we all want to draw a ring around a group of people (with ourselves near the centre 🙂 ) and say “inside this line is OK, acceptable. Outside, well, I’m afraid not.” We want there to be walls – they make us feel safe, reassure us that we are ‘on the inside’.
And yet we also all know that none of us are ‘acceptable’, except through the sacrifice of Jesus. None of us earned the right to be on the inside by believing the right bit of doctrine or by toeing the right line.. Our position was (and is) beautiful, extravagant, undeserved.
I don’t know exactly where I’m heading with this one folks, tough meat takes some simmering, and this might still be a little underdone in my head…
…but, I think the important thing must be to decide what bits of our doctrine, our rules for living, our limits of ‘acceptability’ are part of the ‘posts’ and which bits are ‘walls’. What is really weight-bearingly important and what isn’t.
…Then we humbly lay down our need to be ‘right’ and roll up the walls in order to welcome more people in.
P.S. Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you at all. Maybe you were most caught by the idea of the warm wind of the Spirit blowing away all the dampness of the night. If that’s the case, then maybe he’s just calling you to open up more of your edges to him. To let him blow through parts of yourself that you’ve kept closed off, and to know that it’s OK to roll-up the walls… the roof can stay up without them. x