For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV
All Paul’s talk about tents makes me think of my time as a Boy Scout. I spent a LOT of nights in tents while in scouting, most of them memorable. I remember my brother and me diving into our tent to take refuge from a cloud of those demonic black flies that infest the Canadian wilderness in the spring. I remember shivering through the night with 20 of the guys in a lean-to in single-digit temperatures. I remember my friends and I unknowingly pitching our tent in a dried riverbed in Yellowstone. We discovered our error only when it reverted to a river during a downpour that afternoon. I endured the worst thunderstorm of my life one night in a tent in a Vermont valley. That was a good night to be in a tent. We once set up our tents by the shore of Nevada’s Lake Powell. The stars were so vivid that night that we arranged our sleeping bags on a tarp on the ground, drifting to sleep gazing at the sky. That was a good night to be out of the tent.
A couple days later we arose from our tents before dawn, laced our boots, filled our canteens, and descended into the Grand Canyon for the hike of a lifetime. We braved the scorching August sun, choked on the dust kicked up by the careless feet of those in front of us, and by early afternoon had descended a vertical mile to the Colorado River. Our scoutmaster insisted on snapping a group photo before we retired to a cabin at Phantom Ranch to rest up before continuing to the far canyon rim. One of the guys posted it on my Facebook page last year. A pretty picture it is not.
Despite our exhaustion, it was too hot to sleep, so when 9PM arrived and we returned to the trail, I was more interested in finding a nice soft bed. Instead we marched. For hours. Through the deepest of the night. The concrete slabs placed across the trail to keep mules awake served us with the same purpose, but stepping over them soon made each foot feel like lead. We had to keep to the middle of the trail for fear of rattlesnakes, but had to jump off the trail to avoid the scorpions. We still choked on the dust, and we trudged on. By 2AM I was virtually comatose. Our promised resting spot was just around the next bend according to our scoutmaster, but he’d been saying that for hours and it had become the running joke. In my daze I looked up, and once I did I couldn’t look away. The silhouette of the canyon wall was plainly visible high above against the brilliant star-field, and there at the edge glowed the most beautiful palace I could imagine. The Grand Canyon lodge sat perched on the rim above and before us, so tantalizingly close, yet unreachable. As I stared at the soft lights illuminating the exterior, my thoughts were of those inside, those who had feasted in the evening, those who had watched the sun set across the most wondrous of the natural wonders of the world, those who were sleeping like babies on impossibly soft beds in air conditioned rooms. It was the most beautiful sight I could imagine at that moment, and I longed with all my heart to be transported there that very instant. It was literally my shining city on a hill.
That agonizing and amazing night comes to the forefront of my mind when reading 2 Corinthians 5.
The Holy Spirit resides inside me, but I still reside within a tent of fallen flesh. My spirit groans now, and grows louder each day as I grow in Him and He grows in me. But, God has made a promise, and each day brings me closer to the moment He will free me from this tent that ensnares me, closer to the moment He will install me into a permanent, eternal dwelling fashioned personally by Him. That dwelling will possess dexterity and strength I’ve never commanded, with talents and capabilities I can’t imagine, a body fit only for an adopted prince of the King of the universe. In it I will not suffer, I will not grow weary, I will not fade, I will not fail, I will not sin, I will not cease to worship my Father and Savior and Counselor. I will love Him perfectly, I will serve Him faithfully, I will delight in Him purely, I will glorify Him endlessly! The moment is getting closer, and one day I will finally come around that last bend.