On our latest trip we had the highest site in the campground, a thirty degree incline up to a spot carved out of the mountainside, fifty feet higher than the nearest site, overlooking the campers to the south and the small town in the valley east of us. We had set up the day before and watched the clouds roll in that night, obliterating the bright three-quarter moon, wrapping around us like a shroud.
The rain began in the night, an intermittent drizzle that found its way through the dense forest canopy in a steady barrage of loud heavy plops on the taut nylon of the tent roof, keeping me awake half the night. The next day we spent back in the screen in the middle of a mountain top cloud, its mist swirling around us and dripping off the saturated limbs and leaves even between the sporadic showers. Inside and under cover, the benches we sat on grew cold and dank, seeping into the denim on our legs. The sweatshirts on our backs felt damp and our shoulders chilled in the air. The pages in the books we read thickened and curled at the corners in the cool humidity. The top of the green propane stove at the end of the table beaded with moisture.
By nightfall it was a pleasure to crawl into a warm dry sleeping bag, to lay our backs on a firm air mattress instead of leaning against the edge of a hard wooden table, facing outward to a smoky campfire we could hardly feel through the screen, that sputtered and sizzled from raindrops and wet wood. The next morning dawned clear with a blue that can only mean “cold,” and air so crisp it sucked the damp out of everything, including our hands and lips.
For a few days everything was perfect—hikes in pristine forests, clear views of twinkling lights in the valley below, food cooked over a wood fire, and a sky full of stars over us as we read at night, the red, orange, blue and purple flames of a crackling campfire toasting our toes and legs.
But as perfect as it was, do you think I didn’t want to go home eventually? That I wanted to live out of boxes forever? That there wouldn’t come another day, or even week of rain, or maybe a real storm to blow our tent completely off the mountain? I was happy to go back home, to have electric lights and windows that would shut against the rain and cold, a bathroom just a few feet away instead of a quarter mile, a shower I didn’t have to share with strangers, and a washer and dryer I didn’t have to feed quarters into. I enjoy my camping vacations, but I wouldn’t if I had to live that way forever. In fact, would you even enjoy living in a hotel forever?
The scriptures call our lives here a sojourn, a short stay away from our real home. Why do we act like this is all that really matters, like we want to stay here forever, and why are we so surprised when it rains on us occasionally? This isn’t Heaven after all, and faith doesn’t expect Heaven now.
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Jesus said. Too many of us have our treasures heaped up on a mountaintop campsite or a beachfront condo, and lose our faith when the clouds roll in to spoil our vacation. If you think this life and this world are all God had in mind for you, you have set your sights far too low.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16.