Have you ever tried to fit more people into a tent than you should? The company’s capacity recommendations are there for a reason.
In the moment it sounds fun and adventurous and economical for everyone to cram a little. Everyone has a little less weight to carry…
Until someone’s feet are in your face and no one is sleeping!
The person sleeping next to the tent wall will often wake up a little damp from the dew coming through because there was no space to allow evaporation. If it rains, even more so. The tent is likely to become Puddle Central!
Life Is Like a Tent
Sometimes when life is bursting at the seams, things can get a little messy.
There’s a verse in the Bible where the followers of God are told to:
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your habitations; don’t spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.”Isaiah 54:2
Many of the cultures represented in the Bible had parts of their people groups that were nomadic and lived in tents. So this teaching made sense to them in the context of their culture.
There are some differences between the backpacking tent that I think of and the traditional tents of these ancestral cultures.
These were large structures made of animal skins and often had multiple rooms with curtains separating spaces for different uses. Additional fabric or animal hides could be included or attached to expand the tents.
This allowed people and families to create additional space needed to bring in more people who were being included to dwell together in community.
What Is Your Capacity?
I was thinking about this lately in the context of how we as followers of Jesus interact with people in the world around us.
Just like sometimes a too-full tent feels like it’s no longer functioning the way it’s supposed to, sometimes a too-full life feels overwhelming. Like the day-to-day activities fall apart a bit at the seams.
Sometimes it feels like there is just so much going on in life and when we add more, everything gets stretched to the limit.
As I thought about it, what stuck out to me is that there could be a lesson here when we compare the tents we use today with the tents that would have been used in the Bible.
I think it’s a cool metaphor we can apply to our outdoor adventure lives and think about in the context of our spiritual lives.
Spiritual tent pegs
Isaiah 54:2 is often used to describe spiritual capacity. I’ve often heard it used in regard to Christians being encouraged to widen the tent pegs of their hearts.
There are so many things this could mean, including but not limited to:
- Praying for a new topic
- Hosting a Bible study to disciple people newly exploring a Christian faith practice
- Volunteering with refugee or immigration ministries
- Helping care for families experiencing change by contributing to a meal train
- Even inviting someone to live with you and your family.
There are so many ways this encouragement can be translated into action.
I took a deep dive in this topic when I read The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield. If you’re someone who sees this verse as an invitation to grow more in a spiritual gift of hospitality, I would recommend this read!
Empowered to Expand
Here is where the metaphor comes in:
We can’t widen the tent pegs on our own.
Radical acts of generosity and creating space in your life require a supernatural grace. In our own strength, we’re more like a modern tent.
It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I can’t get my tent to get bigger by pulling on it more. I’ll just pull it apart at the seams.
Alternatively, with the Holy Spirit inspiring how I spend my time and resources and giving me the grace to do so, this is where we can be more like the historical tents used in Biblical times.
This is where the Holy Spirit gives me the grace to expand my capacity. To use discernment to know where I’m called to allocate resources, and where someone else is called to allocate their resources.
Everyone’s Giftings Are Unique
This doesn’t look the same for every person who follows Christ, so this isn’t a place for comparison.
We don’t take this metaphor and say “Look at their tent—how do they get so many people to fit?” We all have unique gifts that will be expressed in different ways.
I want you to think about it as an invitation to see how God wants to use you in unique and impactful ways.
Everyone’s “tent” is going to look a little different. However, at the end of the day, the verse gives the same call to all who follow Christ: Make space in your life.
Make space in your tent.
What thoughts did this reading bring up in you? What can you talk about with a family member, friend or member of your congregation?
Is there any place you feel the Lord is asking you to “expand your tent pegs”?