“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."
Recently, I went tent camping again – having dropped that form of vacationing over 20 years ago - it took a re surge of adventurous spirit (and the assurance that my adult daughter would be an experienced companion in this) to pitch that tent again.
The weather was fine, the air mattress comfortable and the neighbours on the campground eventually stopped talking and playing their guitar around midnight. In the morning I awoke to the sound of camp wood crackling in the fire place and birdsong above my head. It was lovely.
Is our “earthly home” a tent? Tent maker Saul of Tarsus (turned apostle Paul) offers this metaphor.
And because of my recent camping experience I've come to appreciate that image again.
The physical home I live in, a sturdy farmhouse from the early 19th century, is anything but tent like.
Those who built it placed the wood frame on a basement made of massive squared granite stones.
The house is standing straight and tall 170 years later. Because of its solidity it invites solid furniture.
Sturdy, well built 19th century tables and sofas have found their earthly home there. Together with countless books the combined weight of our living there is...lets just say – substantial.
While “de-cluttering” and “letting go” and even preventive “death cleaning” are all the rage, our family so far defies the trend by sticking with some of the stuff that speaks of roots, of memory, of manual skill, and of awareness of time before this very moment in history.
Despite the language that evokes “home” and “buildings” what Paul speaks of when he says “our earthly home” is our body, not the homes - and not the earth as our planet.
He speaks of my (and your) body which in winter time is grateful for the warmth of a farmhouse and in summer likes to cool off from the heat outside.
The tent- like earthly body- home for our self – is fragile and subject to storms and mishaps.
I've seen for myself how tent like the body is...how quickly we overheat, are cold or get damaged...
how we can be moved and transplanted to almost anywhere on earth.
I know people who think they could never survive outside of the place they were born into or went to school. They are extremely wary of travelling, and often, frankly not good at it because they so much seek to find what they knew before and travel to see what is familiar already.
I know other people who are very comfortable with being tent like and with travelling light through this world, with being always open minded, always ready for campsites with new vistas.
All of us though carry everything within ourselves that makes us who we are.– I have met displaced people of all ages and different cultures who brought their self with them wherever they had to set up camp. In the end its our individual stories and our gestures, our loves and our dislikes, our talents and desires, our laughter or lack of it, that is who we are. Not our furniture, not our wine cellar, not our collections of this or that.
What when this tent-body is destroyed? When the body dies, the tent rips and goes to the eternal recycling plant?
Opinions are divided of course: For some, its back to the earth, molecule to molecule, dust to dust...for others its the hope of a “mansion in the sky”...everything good the way we knew it - only better.
I personally hope for the “self” to still have a home. While my tent- body returns to the elements, the “we” or “me” might be “housed” in a space all together different. Not an eternal “mansion”, but with a building from God. A house “not made with hands” -clearly not something you and I could recognize as a “house.”
For me its sufficient that Self might enter a space in the realm of Eternal Divine Love after death. That would, in fact be way more than sufficient...outright awesome.
The camping trip was a good reminder of the fragility of my life-body and also of the beauty of simplicity.
How little it is I need, how moveable the essentials of my life really are.
With that I can even return into the heavy- weight of my farmhouse for a little longer.