Tent Life

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. (II Cor. 5:1)

It has been about 50 years since my father divorced my mom. When Dad left my little sister, Mom, and me, the three of us searched for a permanent place to put down roots. We moved from town to town desperate for friendships–people with whom we might find common ground. Often we wore out our welcome camping in kind folks’ driveways.

The first season after Dad left, we picked prunes on a ranch near Roseburg, Oregon. At night we slept in our camper in a field.

Later Mom answered a newspaper ad from Salem, and we went to work for George, a flamboyant, stocky pitchman. Mom and I sold Fuller Brush door to door. We were able to rent a little apartment then (I was about 14.)

One time, I cannot recall where, I wore a lighted helmet and harvested mushrooms in a dank warehouse. I chopped pumpkins in a cannery in Silverton, and for a while, Mom worked in a window screen factory until her legs gave out. I delivered new vehicles to dealers from a Portland car dealership when I turned 16.

For job opportunities, Mom, my sister and me ping-ponged from town to town–and yes, we were followers of Jesus Christ. But we had fallen into the “ether” of broken, churchless Christians. We were the people that “normal” religious folk shake their heads at: A divorced woman with a teenage boy and a little daughter. A mangy (but beloved) dog. A vehicle badly in need of a tune up. Nothing to offer. Nothing to give. NEEDY.

Who in their right mind would take THEM in?

But in this ether, my gypsy Mom still found time to be a friend. I recall my adrenaline rush when she rescued an abused woman and her daughter from a remote farm outside of Salem. We tossed their suitcases in the trunk of Mom’s old car, and the two escapees hunkered down in the back seat to hide. The abuser was a dairyman. We “sneaked” in and stole his wife and stepchild while he was busy milking cows.

Nerve-wracked, friendless women with children, most traumatized by husbands or relatives, gravitated to Mom. She fed these misfits, housed and encouraged them, and their “friendships” were emotional and “messy.” Ignoring her own trauma, Mom never let them leave without planting scripture in their hearts.

Mom seldom received a thank you. They skipped into our lives like erratic skimming stones on the surface of a lake, then sank out of sight.

From this gypsy lifestyle, I learned to be a person of the tent, like Abraham. In fact, all Christ followers should be. Stunning mountains and lakes may feed our souls; our business successes may satisfy our ambitions; family fulfills us–but we are not HOME.

Like Abraham, our lives are strewn with crises, too. Abraham feared for his life and lied to save himself; he doubted God’s word about his future and made wrong choices, wrong decisions, and he took wrong advice.

Some of us will always be a bubble off center in our relationships due to past traumas and stumbles. Our childhoods, marriages, and careers have been tainted by what the Bible calls sin. But as friends of God, we must recognize that our dysfunctional past is a foundation of wisdom for helping others, and our hardships–past, present, and future–are temporary.

We dare not attach our hearts to possessions, problems or even to people. We live a tent life, and our intimate friendship with God, no matter how unorthodox, eclipses ALL.

Mom turned 93 this year, and her tent is full of memories. Most of her relationships are “virtual” these days (on Messenger), but her friendship with God is not. It grows more tangible moment by moment–and one day her tent will become a mansion.

I [Jesus] no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23)


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