A tent is just utilitarian fabric, stretched taut around a simple frame. It’s purpose is to shelter in the most basic way. It is not really my ideal of a home. A vacation in the mountains, yes, I could embrace the tent in that picture for a short time. And you better believe I would celebrate (with song and dance) coming home to my hot shower at the end. A tent is only meant to be temporary.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent we groan, being burdened-not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5
I really identify with that image of a tent right now, my own skin taut around the body of another, tiny person, my frame providing shelter for their helpless one. In just a few days this little one will be evicted from their little “tent home”, the only universe they have ever known, to begin life in this big world. Someday that little one, so untroubled now, will be burdened and feel the weight of life, their own tent battered and blown by hardship.
Paul, the author inspired by God, uses clear, chilling words like the tolling of funeral bell: naked, groaning, burdened, mortal. We and this world we live in, our tent-home, are destined for destruction. How chilling to our souls, and yet the truth.
Groaning is the perfect word for our response. It can mean a deep, inarticulate sound in response to pain or despair. It can also mean a low creaking sound made when pressure or weight is applied.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Our universe is creaking and cracking under sin’s curse. This tent we are living in is being stretched to its limit. The frame protests that it really can’t take much more of this!
The words applied to our condition may be stark and cold, but that cannot be said about what we have to look forward to and what God is doing right now! The rich language and images tumble out on the page, infusing hope rather than despair.
-A building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
-Longing to put on our heavenly dwelling
-Mortal, swallowed up by life
-Prepared for this by God
-He has given us the Spirit as a guarantee
Take a look around the room you sit in right now. Is there anything around you that is not made with human hands? If you are in a building, the list is probably pretty short. Your hands that scroll this page, the eyes that read it and the mind that thinks about it would top the list. Let this thought sink down deeply- you do not match your surroundings. God is preparing for you something that, for the first time in your existence, will perfectly match your design. It is just waiting for you on the other side of this life. Even the language Paul used highlights this: tent vs. building. It is clear that God is preparing us for eternity even as He is preparing eternity for us.
Meditate on this for a moment: “not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” The imagery very smoothly changed from a tent to a garment. Paul is pulling us in even more intimately to the truth with this progression. We move from seeing our world as a roof of woven fibers to the very threads that cover and protect our bodies with the same perspective of transience.
Back to that imaginary camping trip in the mountains: Why on earth would I choose to embrace the “tent-life” for any period of time? Simply, that it would bring me closer to what I love, breathtaking views, sunsets that would give me goosebumps, the chance to have an unhurried, unplugged vacation with people I care about. Yes, this would be worth the discomfort of a tent. Is it not so clearly God’s design then that we are fragile and weak so that we would be drawn to closer to Him? From God’s eternal view what we are is not far removed from naked. He would have us feel that keenly, desire something more desperately. It is His design not to leave us in this state, but for us to be reclothed in new life.
Some days this garment of our bodies is light and easy to wear. Other days, in is a weight and burden. This is His design and not one that we should chafe at, but rather embrace as His plan. We live so invested deeply into this world and surrounded by so many comforts that our souls get stifled and smothered. We forget that it is just a battered tent home. We lose sight that our clothing is threadbare and needing to be replaced.
The mortality that hedges in my days with weariness, sickness and loss is destined to be completely consumed by life. Life that is light and completely joyous, that continues forever in God’s presence. Life that equals worship as easy as breathing. Life as it was always meant to be, unencumbered by death.