Have you ever gone camping?
In the States, especially in the Northwest (where I’ve spent most of my life), it seems like the thought of never having been camping is as unheard of as a Liberian who has never eaten rice.
I used to love to camp when I was kid. Short 3 day trips in the woods were exhilarating. It seemed to be a great opportunity to learn the art of fishing, cooking in the wilderness, and toad catching. I think there was also a certain attitude of rest, quietness, escape (getting away from the noise and maybe the trials or stresses back home), adventure, and even downright euphoria settled in for a short while.
When I was in high school, I did whitewater rafting ministry and learned a totally different form of camping, and in the process learned different and deeper lessons as well.
These camp outs were more like weeks and months at a time living on beaches in the lovely northwest mountains- seasons of life that I call silence or solitude even though I consistently interacted with staff and campers.
I rested in those quiet places long enough to begin to hear the screams of my own heart (screams for love, trust, identity, hope, and purpose) that were previously muddled by the naturally imposed noise and clutter of my busy life.
For all of us those seasons can be moments when we begin to truly hear and accurately see both the things that need to come into our lives- and bring with them positive changes- and the things that we need to give up or get rid of in order to grow and be healthier people. More importantly we begin to hear and trust the voice of the Good Shepherd (Jesus), to sense His love and nearness as our good, and as a response to His tender love and faithfulness we begin to gleefully throw off all that hinders us from intimately knowing HIM.
With the images of these different seasons in our minds, I’d like to reflect on how we can take pleasure in this “camping out” (rest, adventure, silence, reflection and solitude) in our spiritual lives as well.
Have you ever gone camping in the Scriptures?
Perhaps you’ve taken a short 3 day adventure (what some of us may call a retreat) where you just rest and drink in His truth and refocus your heart and mind on the things of God? Or maybe you’ve gone even deeper into Jesus-into the wilderness or wide open spaces of life with him- and have found yourself camped out with Him in the Scriptures fully delighting and drinking in all that He is and promises to be, as well as who declares you to be in light of His truth.
For the last year, I have been camped out in the Scriptures, and more specifically I have repeatedly revisited a book called Romans (primarily chapters 12-15).
These chapters speak of genuine love, true respect/honor, forgiveness, hope, identity, injustice, joy, judgment, endurance and patience.
In times of heartbreak and brokenness God spoke “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
In moments of darkness, rejection and persecution He invaded my heart with the truth “Abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good…weep with those who weep… repay no one evil for evil but leave it to the justice of God… owe no one anything but to love each other… make no provision for the flesh to gratify it’s desires… we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak… for Christ did not please Himself but rather stated ‘the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’.”
Through these chapters and so many others like them (all throughout the Bible) He has given me a purpose and a vision by powerfully declaring “those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard (until now) will understand!”
Today, we have entered the season of lent, and I would like to invite each of you to come camping with me during this season. It’s not just a short 3 day trip but it’s more like the second camping adventure- the one that requires new things to “come into our lives and bring with them positive changes, and the things that we need to give up or get rid of in order to grow and be healthier.” That’s what lent is all about.
During this season, we all have a chance to acknowledge our own sin and to begin anew; to follow the Good Shepherd and become more like him, to camp with Him in His majestic mountains of truth and faithfulness, and to rise from death to life with Him through the same power that raised Him 2,000 years ago!