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.

Really 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.

25 comments:

  1. I hear you! I gave up everything I knew and loved 13 years ago and moved across the sea to a different country. It was when I was young enough to consider it an adventure, but it was also still much more difficult and amazing than I ever thought possible.

    I once received a blessing, a few months after moving, that said "the Lord has held you in the palm of His hand."

    I hope you can feel a similar sort of comfort as you sojourn in your own wilderness, for a season.

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  2. I needed to read this! Drue just finished his doctorate, but without a job offer. We are adrift. We have a nice place to live, great friends, great schools and some wonderful experiences here, but we feel like we are truly "dwelling in a tent" because none of this is permanent. I agree with the feeling of a deep desire to set down roots and grow into something great, but that's so hard to do! We just have to trust the Lord that he will direct us, and we must open our hearts to him to be okay with the directions. Thanks so much for lightening my load today!

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    1. Best of luck Ashley, I think graduating for school is hard. It just rocks the boat and makes you have to make hard choices. I hope you guys find a job soon and get things figured out! Love you.

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  3. I needed this too. My husband and I just left our first little home. The house we brought our babies home in. We are renting for awhile while our new house is built. I feel very much in limbo with half my stuff packed in a storage unit living in someone else's home. I'm also nervous about setting down new roots in an unknown neighborhood. I don't know if we will fit in, if the neighbors will be nice, etc. I'm having to put my faith in the Lord that this is what we are supposed to do and that we will be okay. But change is hard. The unknown is scary. Thanks for helping me to relate more to these women that I have been studying about. You are inspiring :)

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  4. My parents moved us across the country away from family and all they knew. I will forever be grateful! It drew us closer together as a family. When my husband and I got married I knew it wouldn't quite be that way as he and his brothers are partners in the family farm. We lived near family for 11 years. Then the opportunity came to expand and buy a new farm 2+ hours away. We took the plunge {when no one else but his sister and her family were willing} and moved away from all he had ever known. It has been a wonderful experience to grow even closer together. We also had to leave our newly built home and move into a smaller much older home. That has been the hardest part!

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  5. We've done it twice. Once away, once back. Honestly? The hardest move was coming back.

    Your faith is awesome, Heather. And you will definitely be blessed for it!

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  6. Heather, I love this insight you shared! It has come at the perfect time for me and my little family too! We are expecting our second baby in June (we're planning a home birth!) and then will be re-locating to a college campus in August so that my husband can further his studies. It is an amazing opportunity for our family and God is so good to us. But that doesn't make it easy to pack up those belongings that we have grown attached to, close the door on this house for the last time and take our little family out into the unknown. I have never looked at this little verse of scripture and seen the significance of it... until now. It is beautiful and I thank you for sharing your inspired insights with us! I have faith that the Lord is leading us to our own 'promised land' but He can only do that if we are willing to let go of those things we think we need and be willing to 'dwell in a tent'. Beautiful!

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    1. Job , Best wishes with the move and the birth! I am so excited for you. Lots of changes all at once ;)

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  7. Beautiful as always, Heather. We might be moving soon, and while I am a bit conflicted, the Lord has blessed me with feelings of peace too. As a side note, my hubby read your bio on this blog and asked if you were my twin. Aside from the home birthing, we are a lot alike. :)

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    1. Yes, us modern dancey types need to stick together ;)

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  8. I should say we like similar things.

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  9. The phrase "and my father dwelt in a tent" has another meaning for me too. The phrase is repeated more than once in first Nephi, often saying something to the effect of "all this was done while my father dwelt in a tent" and I realized that great things can be accomplished while dwelling in a humble tent. You could find lost scripture, grow close enough to God that you could see visions of the tree of life, and even break a bow or two :)

    I desperately need to call you and get an update on your life. Maybe I'll do that today :) Love you!

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  10. I have been known as somewhat of a nomad in the past 13 years of my marriage... and even though so many looking in wish to say, "Why don't you just plant some roots and stay somewhere??", I look back at each place we've been and see nothing but good friends, spiritual experiences, and adventures that have brought my little family closer together. I appreciate so much the words you have spoken... as they ring true to the very center of my heart!

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  11. In the Hebrew scriptures- the tablernacle was a tent. The word "tent" is akin to the Temple. So Lehi dwelling in a tent would mean that he had authority and keys. Temple keys. It is a VERY important scripture. There is some debate about the first temple period, around the time that Lehi left Jerulselem. There has been evidence found that the first tenple period was ruled by Melchisedec. We have found that name on murals that would have been in the temple. When Jeruselem was destroyed -so was that temple, and that attempts were made to currupt the ceremonies. So even when Solomons temple was built, they only had partial truth. It is interesting that this work is being discovered by the secular religious studies community. I just sit back and say hmmmmm.....

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  12. I think it's funny people talk about that being the shortest verse, when as far as I can find, that would be 2 Nephi 13:21, "The rings, and nose jewels;" Just sayin'. ;)

    I love this post. It is hard to be willing to give up material things and places we've grown to love. But the faith we develop by doing so is worth it. It is what we came to earth for. I have been expecting to live where we are for just a few years and have our Next location be the place we set down our deep roots...but alas now DH is planning to go back to school and we'll likely have to move for that and move again when he's done. I'm happy to do what we're supposed to do and whatever is right. But it is also nice to have that feeling of KNOWING where you're going and how long you'll be somewhere and be able to make friends and then stay put. :-p

    I'll keep you in my prayers and I hope this transition goes as smoothly as possible for you and your family. :)

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  13. I've been reading about Sariah and likening her experience to my life, too! I hate moving, but the thing is I would never give up any of the places that we moved to or the people we met there or the amazing experiences we had. I recognize the good that can come from being really rooted in a place, but there's something beautiful, too, about little bits of soil from many places clinging to your roots.

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  14. I appreciate your insights re that short little comment, almost an afterthought, 'my father dwelt in a tent.' Thanks for sharing!

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  15. I'm so grateful you shared this. We are also in some life-changing decision stages in our house. Do we take a job that is comfortable and close to home or move somewhere that would completely change our lifestyle? It's scary and exciting. I am excited to hear where you end up. I will be referring to Lehi and Sariah's experience as we go through our own. Thanks Heather and good luck!

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  16. I just found your blog (via Pinterest...) and I already love it! I think it's going to become a favorite!

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  17. You inspire me all the time. This post is no exception. I'm excited to see where the Lord leads you. I know you'll be an incredible force for good no matter where you are.

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  18. We have moved a lot in our marriage, but never for a job or house. We have always been willing to stay or go based on the Lord and Him speaking to us. We look on every move as a new calling for our family. I would also be grateful to finally have a home base and hope that at some point we can settle down as part of our mission, as well.

    Having spent the last several years in Utah, I have observed that far too few are willing to leave their families and the security of having the church everywhere to serve the Lord in other locations. They are mostly afraid and too preoccupied with wanting a perfectly decorated and appointed home...which is not really a bad thing unless it keeps you from something better.

    Of course, I also believe that some people are meant to stay...it is a matter of mission.

    I have to admit, though, that it ALWAYS makes me happy when I hear that someone is willing to take a leap of faith and serve somewhere new. It is amazing how much we learn when we voluntarily move out of our comfort zone, our past. And our habits...including our children.

    Good luck! Whether you stay or go, I know even this decision process is such a growing experience it will help your family grow closer to the Lord.

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  19. I know, three comments to one post is two too many, but I thought of you and this post as I was reading the OT. It refers to how David wanted to build a temple/building for the ark but the Lord said that the ark has been without a solid structure since its inception and it doesn't need one now (2 Sam. 7:6, "but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle"). The line about wanting to send your roots down deep struck me, and I think the most important thing we can do, and that you are already doing, is digging your roots deep into the gospel. Good luck in your upcoming changes!

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  20. I love this insight. Our homes are just boxes for our stuff.

    also that we are all just dwelling in tents on our journey back home to God. I love it! :)

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  21. Sheridan posted this on her Facebook wall... that's how I was led to it. How amazingly beautiful!! This is so timely for me. We are moving from a home we've lived in most of our married life and the only home our children have ever known. Why? No reason in particular other than we feel the Lord calling us to other places. It is HARD... we've established roots and friendships and a sense of community here. We are so sad to leave those things behind. But at the same time, we feel that call so strongly. So we are heeding the call and being obedient and it is nothing short of a miracle how many doors have opened up for us and we have seen the beauty in obedience. Our lives have been blessed in so many ways. I loved your analogy about the tent. I used to be a pack rat... saved every single thing I ever owned. It drove my husband nuts (still does, even if I HAVE gotten a TON better). He has always said to me, "Honey, it's just stuff. We could all be happy in a tent together as long as we were all together." So wise. So I've been purging my home in preparation for a big move... and it feels good. I can't help but think, "I"ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord..." Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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  22. I loved this post! We just moved to a new state where we have no family nearby. We have lived near my husband's family for the last 9 years! I am excited for our new adventure but a little nervous too!

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