Monday, May 21, 2012
Dwelling in a Tent
Lately I am feeling a bit like I imagine Sarah felt when she and Abraham left their home in Haran to go into the wilderness of Canaan, to".. the land that I will shew thee" (Genesis 12:1).
Or how Sariah must have felt when Lehi asked her to leave the comfort and the beauty of her home in Jerusalem for the unknown of the Arabian desert.
We just moved and are sort of homeless at the moment, bouncing back and forth between family until we can figure out where we need to be. Jon and I have been having a bit of an existential crisis; re-evaluating our goals and priorities in life and trying to figure out just exactly how and where we want to raise our family and serve the Lord. Even though Jon has a good job in Salt Lake City he may (in the next several months) have the possibility of accepting a job that would require our family to live further away from family and possibly in some very remote parts of the United States, but which would have the possibility of doing some really incredible service work for some of the poorest citizens in the US. I desperately would like to set down some roots, sink them deep into the ground, but I can't help but feel the Lord might have something else planned for us. It makes me feel all topsy turvey inside.
Stepping out into the unknown is scary, and I have been re-reading the stories of Sarah and Sariah to get a better understanding of how they had the faith to do what they did.
As I re-read the story of Lehi and Sariah leaving Jerusalem I was really struck by this verse in 1 Nephi 2:15 in which Nephi simply states, "And my father dwelt in a tent." This verse is often used light heartily as the shortest verse in the Book of Mormon, yet this one little verse is packed full of meaning. It indicates that Nephi and his family had finally made a choice. They had officially given up their affluent, city dwelling, stable life style for the difficultly and uncertainty of being guided by the Lord in the desert. That couldn't have been an easy to choice to make, or an easy road to follow. Yet look at the incredible things that came as a result of that one choice!
I think what I am coming to learn, slowly, is that the Lord expects each of us to "dwell in a tent", in a figurative way. Even though ancient peoples often pitched their tents for long periods of time, tents (unlike houses) are not permanent structures and can (and were) taken down in order to move on to a richer part of land, escape conflict, or simply because the Lord commanded it. Today those who"dwell in a tent" are those whose hearts are open to the Lord and are are willing to go where He wants them to go-- instead of being tied down by their houses, their riches, or their desire for comfort. To truly be an instrument in the hands of the Lord, like Sarah and Abraham or Lehi and Sariah, we must be willing to leave everything behind if it is required of us and go where the Lord directs.
That is hard.
Yet Sarah did it.
And so did Sariah-- though I really can't blame her for having her moments of murmuring.
Last week as Jon and I drove away from our little house it dawned on me that, once you take all the people who are dear to you out of it, a house is really nothing more than a big box to store stuff in. When we die we will take nothing of this life with us except for our bodies and our intelligence, everything else will be left behind. And truly, the more I think about it, the more I see that each and every one of us on this earth are already "dwelling in a tent". None of us are permanent fixtures on this earth, we are all "strangers in a strange land" (Exodus 2:22) who are just passing through on our way towards our eternal home-- our promised land.
When I think about it that way I see just how silly it is to put our faith in material things, like our homes and our possessions. Yet it is so easy to do. I am so grateful that the Lord let me see my little house for what it really was-- just a tent-- one of many of the stops Jon and I will take before we get to where our real home is.
Even so, I will always be grateful that Jon and I had the chance to pitch our tent in such a wonderful part of the world for a time. Even though it hurts, so much, to take out those stakes, fold up my blankets, load my camels, and move on-- not really knowing where we are going-- I have faith that the Lord will lead us to another fertile part of the wilderness. Where we can again pitch our tent -- whether it be for a few months, a year, 25, or 50 -- to help build His kingdom until we are called to move on... or are taken home to the land where we truly belong.