Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-6:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Titus 2:11-14
Last summer, we ventured out west where we spent about a week sleeping in a tent with our five children. Driving from Washington back home to Tennessee, we passed the base of Mt. Rainer, the Grand Tetons, and other increasingly brave and out-of-the-way places. As we were driving through the Yakima Valley one evening, we realized it was late and getting dark, and we hadn’t settled on a place to set up camp for the night. And so we stopped along the Naches River on an abandoned stretch of highway with tall hills on both sides of the camp.
By this point we had a travel system in place; everyone knew their job, so we all worked together quickly to set up our tent. Once we’d settled in, we realized we were not alone. Just a stone’s throw away, tucked behind the sagebrush, cooking hot dogs over a fire, was Frank. I helped the kids play/bathe in the river and helped them to some supper, while my husband, Caleb, introduced himself. Frank lived in his tent full-time and had a lot of really good ideas for long-term, electricity-free refrigeration. We exchanged kindnesses and small gifts, and fell asleep in our respective tents. For us, that night was the bravest, most rugged camping we’d ever logged. But for Frank, it was just a Tuesday.
I love the hope that Paul gives us in this passage from 2 Corinthians, because no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable we are in our earthly tents, they will all be packed up and folded away someday. Because of Jesus, this is not our home. The Father “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Paul acknowledges that we are groaning in our earthly bodies, some of us living with pain that won’t go away until Jesus comes. Some of us carrying a weight of sadness that makes us long to go home. No matter what kind of tent we are living in, it will be destroyed.
The thought of my own death fills me with concern for my children. But setting that hefty thought aside and clinging to the truth Paul is teaching in this passage, I see that our earthly death means the ending of a short, uncomfortable camping trip, and the joy and relief of finally going home—where things are clean and warm and beautiful, and there’s good food and good company. But we have never seen it. So we hold on to our tents, even though they are fraying and growing holes and starting to let the rain in. These tents are awesome, don’t get me wrong. But they are not the final stop. In the meantime, Paul says, we sit in our tents and we groan.
But Paul exhorts us, “So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6). While we are still here on earth in these awesome and leaky bodies, biding our time, we have the mighty hope of our future eternal home with Christ. During these camping days, we aim to be pleasing to Him and long for the day when He will finally bring us home.