I opened my car door after having spent the night crunched up inside sheltered from the monsoon. My legs both ached and gave out a sigh of relief as I extended them down to the sandy soil. I was at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in northern west Texas. Last night, a raging monsoon ripped off the fly of my tent, snapped a tent pole, and left me curled up in a puddle of rainwater. I soon retreated to my car.
I was hesitant to face the prospect that my tent might be completely gone. This was True Blue, my tent who had been with me for all of my outdoor adventures. We’d camped all over the West before, in the Smoky Mountains of Appalachia, down in the forests of South Carolina, and even on sandy shores in Florida and in Disney World. We had a rich history together. Yes, I’m sentimental about my camping gear.
To my surprise there she lay, completely flattened and decimated by the storm, sad but pitifully humorous. As I observed the ruins, it confirmed true, a tent pole was completely snapped.
This had me thinking, drawing the parallels between tents and lives. Allow me to consider each tent a person’s life. Each life is supported by a set of beliefs. These beliefs are the tent poles. They hold the person up, keep them going, give them the will and motivation to live. Some tents, or lives, are held up by solid strong sturdy beliefs. Ones that are unwavering in the storm, and able to withstand any monsoon. Other beliefs, like my weak tent poles, are snapped in the storm. They do not support one in hardship. They have no fortitude, and because they often aren’t even true, they snap and bring a life to collapse into misery, dismay, even destruction.
Some people hold their tents up with money, a belief that wealth is the key to keeping the tent standing. Others hold up tents with status. They believe their value is determined by other’s perceptions about them. Some hold up their tents with relationships, believing they must be dependent on another for well-being. Progressivism has taught the belief that one should always listen to their heart, follow their impulses, and do whatever makes them happy. I’d be careful for “The heart is more deceitful than all else.”- Jeremiah 17:9. Even some have noble actions that are rooted in self-righteous beliefs that if they simply do good to others and their environments karma will play in their favor.
Truth is, all of these tent poles will not hold one up in the roughest storms of life. They are weak and more importantly faulty. The tent poles crafted to withstand any storm, any winds, any monsoon, are the tent poles of God’s promises. Tent poles staked in his character.
I have considered, what are the tent poles in my life? What keeps my tent standing when difficulty comes my way? When faced with illness, unwanted challenge, and loss, what helps keep me unwavering? One of my tent poles is the belief that God is sovereign. There is nothing that is beyond God’s watch and intervention. He is aware of it all. Ecclesiastes 7:14 tells us, “When times are good, enjoy them, but when times are bad, consider this. God has made one as well as the other, and man never knows what the future may bring.” God is all-knowing. He is sovereign over both our good days and bad days. This brings me comfort. Everything is always on his watch.
Another tent pole would be that God is my strength. Even when I am weak, He is strong. Isaiah 40:29-31 says “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” When I physically and mentally feel like I don’t have the strength to go on, I’m often right, but God is my reserve, my strength. I have a reservoir of strength beyond my own- a never ending wellspring of life.
A third tent pole is the belief that God works all things together for good. Even in the most unfortunate situations I press forward. I have hope, because I know that in the end this will be used for good. This allows me to confront the bad things in life with a peace that sometimes the world does not understand. Along the same lines is also the belief that all my battles have already been won by God. I have nothing to fear.
Is my tent always stable and firm? No. It shakes and trembles as I work on my faith. That is life, but it does not fall. What beliefs are holding up your tent? What do you fundamentally believe when faced with the hardships of life? What do you believe about yourself and God? Maybe you share some of the same beliefs as me. But have you set up your tent? Have you camped out under its beams? Do you meditate and focus your thoughts and life on these beliefs, or are these tent poles laying flat on the ground? Is your tent not set up? Get on with it! Storms are inevitable. Don’t be caught out in the rain.
Read my previous episode “Camping in a Monsoon (and what it taught me about life),” here: https://joshthehodge.com/2020/02/27/camping-in-a-monsoon-and-what-it-taught-me-about-life/
Check out my new book “Canyonlands: My Adventures in the National Parks and the Beautiful Wild,” here:
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