“Don’t feed the bears!” the Park Ranger told us when we entered Yosemite National Park.
“Don’t take food into your tent.”
“Don’t leave food on your picnic table.”
“Don’t leave your ice chest setting out—Put it in the trunk of your car.”
Fortunately, I was driving a 1978 Buick Electra 225 and the trunk was as big as Texas. We could have slept in the trunk if we had needed to. So we agreed to abide by all the warnings about the bears. I made a mental note of the rules for future reference.
Pat and I set up the tent while Daren and Julie played around the campsite. Our tent was a canvas classic. My dad had gotten a “real deal” at the Army Surplus store. The tent was Fatigue Green—I mean really fatigued green. The mosquito netting was mostly torn and the zippered window flaps only went halfway up. The all-important zipper on the door flap did work, which would come into play later.
We had a great evening, and like most campers, turned in pretty early. I went to sleep thinking about Rule #1, “Don’t feed the bears!” All was calm until about 2:00 a.m. when a lot of yelling and a huge ruckus awakened us. Pat zipped the door flap down halfway and peeked out. Sure enough, our neighbor was screaming at a huge black bear that was tearing up his ice chest. So, my first thought was, “Man! That guy neglected Rule #4!”
Our neighbor was yelling and beating on something to “scare” the bear—but when he stood on his hind feet and looked down at the man—he suddenly fell silent. Remembering Rule #1, Pat zipped that door flap up, as tight as it would go. About that time we discovered a drawback of camping in a tent—amazing vulnerability. The Army Surplus zipper on that tent flap would not really do much to stop that bear. We were just glad we obeyed Rule #2, and lay wide-awake until daybreak.
Living in a tent has its drawbacks—especially if there are bears around. Now, I know there are people who live their whole lives in tents, but from my experience, I am glad I am not one of them.
However, living in a tent can yield some great spiritual lessons. In Second Corinthians 5, Paul used the tent as a metaphor of our physical bodies, to teach powerful truths about our lives, here and hereafter. Notice the contrasts between life here in our earthly tents—and life there in our heavenly house:
There is a Contrast in their Endurance…”We know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (verse 1)
Tents are vulnerable—as are our earthly bodies. Tents offer no protection from intruders and are designed for temporary use. So are our bodies. They are easily injured. They are fragile—one accident can end a life. They are short-lived.
Buildings are stronger, durable and long lasting—as our heavenly, resurrected bodies will be. “It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42, 44).
There is a Contrast in their Comfort…”For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (verse 2).
Tents are uncomfortable. They cause us to “groan.” As the physical body, our tent, gets older, more groaning results—“Indeed, while we are in this tent, we groan” (verse 4).
Buildings are mostly comfortable, roomy and secure. After you become a believer in Christ and begin to grow in your faith, you get to “longing” for your future abode, your future home that God provides and Jesus prepares (John 14:2).
There is a Contrast in their Duration…We want “to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life” (verse 4).
Tents are, by nature of their material, of short duration. Fabric decays—Bricks endure. Whether tents are made of animal skins, canvas or nylon, they don’t last very long. The longest life in this physical tent is short.
Buildings are made to last. Eternity is just that—eternal—never ending. To believers, Jesus promised: “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish” (John 10:28). People think now that life is swallowed up by death, but not so, in Christ, death will be swallowed up by life!
There is a Contrast in their Location…We “prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (verse 8).
The physical tent in which you now dwell, will be left earthside, when you pass from this life. Life in this tent is tied to this mortal environment.
But the building, that new body you will receive, which is eternal, is fitted for heaven. Paul said he would rather be “absent” from here, in this tent, “to be at home with the Lord.” Wouldn’t you really rather be at home?
Though life here on earth is contrasted with life hereafter in heaven—Our aim should be the same—“We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (verse 9). Whether living in a tent now—or in your eternal house later—your aim should be to please God with your life. For the best life in a tent here, until you get your “building not made with hands,” aim your life at His glory!