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Sharp Knives and Leaky Tents: Lessons from Camping

Spurred on by my cub scout’s requirement to camp before his next pack meeting, we loaded our family up and headed to a state park for Memorial Day weekend. One or two (dozen) others had the same plan.

While setting up camp, I turned to see my husband stepping out from behind the car covered in blood. As in a detective show, his shirt had bloodstains down the front and both hands were drenched. He had been cutting open a package with his (new) pocketknife and slipped. And just like that, we were headed to the hospital, 40 minutes away in Scranton.

We went through the typical ED routine—paperwork, lots of waiting, and finally attention from a health care provider. Four stitches and three hours later, we were back at the campground, in good spirits and thankful for physician’s assistants and insurance.

How do you respond when you have an accident?

Later I pondered my reaction to the injury, the spurting blood, and the drive to an unfamiliar hospital. I was pretty calm, despite the fact that blood makes me squeamish. Normally, something much smaller throws me, and I lose my cool more easily than I’d care to admit. What made the difference?

On that day, I had no long task list, no set schedule, and no deadlines. Our only job was to set up camp and enjoy one another. Our trip to the hospital meant we missed out on some swimming time, but our schedule had margin in it. There was no domino effect of crashing commitments and deadlines. The space in our schedule helped me respond with patience and grace instead of anxiety and fear.

Leaving room in my schedule is a way to acknowledge that I’m not in control. I can’t foresee what unplanned opportunities or obstacles I’ll encounter. Allowing room for the unknown is a way of remembering that God is with me.

*****

Later that night, we enjoyed the glorious sound of rain on the tent. Unfortunately, we soon experienced not only the sound of rain on the tent, but also the feel of rain in the tent. And we’re not talking just the floor of the tent absorbing water. Rain was actually dripping in. By 3 a.m., my daughter and I moved to the car to wait out the rest of the night. And I lay awake, comforted by the soft snores of my kindergartner, thinking about what went wrong.

What went wrong was that our tent was no longer waterproof. I’m sure at some point in the past it was perfectly sufficient to withstand such a storm, but last night was not that night. Over time as the tent aged, it gradually lost the ability to protect us from water. And we didn’t notice. When we needed that protection, it wasn’t there—we hadn’t bothered to maintain it.

Is your faith like a leaky tent?

So much in life is about maintenance. To keep a car running well, it needs regular service. To keep neighbors happy, lawns need mowing. To keep our bodies healthy, we must feed them well and keep moving. To keep tents from leaking, they need maintenance too.

And our faith needs maintenance as well. Small steps to connect with God regularly are essential. Our habits of prayer in everyday life prepare us for the storms.

Maybe your faith is sort of like my leaky tent—once strong and well-used, now it’s been neglected and is not strong enough to withstand a storm. There’s no need to throw it away. A leaky tent can be redeemed with waterproofing treatment. And your faith can be renewed as well. Why not start a new habit today of connecting with God—a few minutes of silence, reciting a prayer, asking for wisdom—there’s no one right way.

Our weekend was wetter and bloodier than expected. But it was full of grace. I’m grateful for time free from busyness and task lists. Grateful for roasted marshmallows around a campfire. Grateful for the sound of rain on the tent (before it came inside). And yes, grateful for the leaks—a helpful reminder of the daily habits of faith we all need.

Anna Moseley Gissing

Anna Moseley Gissing is Associate Academic Editor of InterVarsity Press. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her writing has been published in Let us Keep the Feast and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids, and she aspires to more reading, more writing, and more patience.

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4 Comments

    lori travers

    1st Jun 2016 - 6:45 pm

    Good reminder! thank you….
    Now, on the lighter side, you might enjoy this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UahqgK60vuk&feature=share

    Blessings!

    Anna Moseley Gissing

    1st Jun 2016 - 8:51 pm

    Ha! Thanks, Lori.

    Cynthia Sinclair

    2nd Jun 2016 - 1:37 am

    Just randomly came across this and the timing is perfect for a storm in the life of a dear one. At the same time, I am praying for wisdom. This helps.

    Anna Moseley Gissing

    2nd Jun 2016 - 5:27 pm

    I’m so glad to hear it, Cynthia.

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