When we describe our camping trips, people sigh and say things like, “That sounds heavenly.”
We cook over an open fire, the meat caramelized by the flames and flavored by the smoke. At night we sit by a pile of crackling logs under a black sky of twinkling diamond stars and sip hot chocolate. In the mornings we cuddle by a fire pulled together from the coals of the night before, and gaze on a view that ought to cost extra—mountain after mountain after green rolling mountain against a blue sky, or wrapped with frothy clouds like lacy boas, or peeking through a fine mist, or shining in the sun, covered with trees sporting all the fall colors along with a few dark evergreens. We hike through wilderness forests unsullied by human rubbish, watching birds we seldom see flit from limb to limb, coons or deer or bears trundling off in the distance or standing stock still in shock staring at us, tiny rills splashing over rocks into larger brooks running to yet larger creeks and finally to the rivers in the valleys below. We visit orchards and buy apples straight from the tree, not prettied up for the store, sporting a real blemish here and there, but full of flavor, juicy with a perfect texture. That evening we peel and slice a skillet full, add butter, sugar and cinnamon, set them on a low flame on the propane camp stove and twenty minutes later eat the best dessert you ever had.
Then we trot out the other side of camping to our friends: a day long misty rain that, even inside the screen set up over the table, seeps into your clothes and leaves you shivering; carrying a loaded tote to the bathhouse a few hundred yards up or down a steep hill every time you want to brush your teeth or take a shower; stepping outside the tent in the morning to a thermometer that reads 27 degrees.
“I could never do that!” one says. “I’d be headed for the first Holiday Inn!” another proclaims. Unfortunately, you don’t get the good part without the bad part. The good parts often happen after the day-trippers head for the hotel. Their food doesn’t come close and they pay a whole lot more for it at a restaurant than we did at the grocery store the week before we left. They see the view once, just for a few minutes before being jostled out of the way by the next person standing behind them at the overlook. And most hotels would frown on a campfire in their rooms.
Keith and I are snobs about our camping. When we camp, we live outdoors. We don’t hide when the weather turns cold, or even wet—we can’t in a tent. So we just wrap up and tough it out. Oh, so superior are we. But we have our limits too. You will never find us at a primitive campsite. You certainly won’t find us at a pioneer campsite. We want our water spigot and electricity. How do you think we handle those nights in the 20s? We handle them with a long outdoor extension cord snaking its way inside the tent zipper to an electric blanket stuffed in the double sleeping bag and a small $15 space heater that, amazingly, raises the tent temperature 20-30 degrees inside.
So where am I when it comes to Christianity? Am I sold on the health and wealth gospel? As long as good things happen to me, I am perfectly willing to believe in God and be faithful to Him. Do I recognize the need for a little bit of trouble to prove my faith, but NOT full scale persecution or trial? Have I come through some tough tests and now think so well of myself that I can scream to God, “Enough!” as if I had the right to lay out the terms for my faithfulness?
The rich young ruler thought he was pretty good. He had kept the commandments. But Jesus knew where this fellow drew the line—his wealth. So that is precisely where Jesus led him.
Do we have a line we won’t cross? Is it possessions, security, health, family stability, friendships, comfort? Whatever it is, the Lord will make sure you come against that line some day in your life. You may think you are fine—why I can stay in my tent when it’s 25 degrees out! What if the thermometer hit zero? What if it rained, not just one day, but every day? What if I had no running water, no hot showers, no electric blanket? Would I pack up and head for the hotel? Or would I tough it out, knowing the reward was far greater than even the most torturous pain imaginable in this life?
You can’t run to the hotel and hide when persecution strikes. You can’t close the RV door and count on riding out the storms of life. Sometimes God expects you to stay in the tent in the most primitive campsite available. Sometimes he even takes away the tent. But you will still have the best refuge anyone could hope for if you make use of it, and when the trial is over, you get to enjoy the good parts that everyone else missed.
And another also said, I will follow you, Lord; but first suffer me to bid farewell to them that are at my house. But Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God, Luke 9:61,62.