Pitch A Tent
On Making Room For the Holy
I posted a photo on my facebook page last week which garnered more of a response than I’d anticipated. Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure if I should share it but it seemed significant and so I did. In that photograph is a stack of paper.
I’ve been working on that stack of paper for over 14 years. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this ever growing act of blatant plagiarism is in direct violation of all the copyright laws – an irony not lost on someone who slaps a copyright on everything she produces. I figure what Zondervan doesn’t know won’t hurt them. Hopefully. Because this isn’t a journal or a thesis or some kind of opus that’ll one day blow the minds of all who ever knew me. It’s the Bible. I’ve been copying the Bible, painstakingly, for my entire adult life beginning at age 18 and having just passed the halfway point now at 32. So in fairness, this is only half the Bible.
Why? I guess I fell in love with the Word of God kind of by accident on my part. Initially I began reading it in order to prove it wrong. Like if I read it for myself, then I could bring my own arguments to the table and be able to believe in God (maybe) without all the Jesus stuff (because that would be weird) and I damn sure wasn’t interested in Ghosts, of the Holy or any other variety. (The lighbulb in my lamp exploded after I wrote that and I almost peed my pants. True story.)
It went well for me in that I failed miserably. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. What does that even mean? Who knows. I was in. Just like a crazy person. It was highly unsettling and I am still at odds with myself trying to reconcile logic and faith. So there I was. 18 and a new Christian. Like a for real one. Now what?
I didn’t know it then, but my now what was that God was helping me pitch a tent. I’d read the Word, but it was time for me to know the Word.
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting…Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses…Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Pitch a tent. For Moses this was a literal thing. An actual tent. A place where room was made for the holy. A place of meeting with God. And what is so perfect about this for me is that tents were just ordinary to those people in that place and time. Everyone lived in a tent. And perhaps God chose this way of meeting with them to demonstrate His movement with them, among them and for them. He moved where they moved. When they moved. How they moved. Not just in a pillar of cloud or fire, but in a tent. In a way that was accessible and sensible to people who were displaced, dismayed, and at some serious disadvantage.
I shared that passage of Scripture with Mateo on Sunday at his baptism. I prayed about what verse or story would be an encouragement to him as he’s made this choice to follow Jesus at such a young age. I shared with him that it’s not Moses who strikes me in this story, it’s Joshua. Joshua the man who would later be one of only two to give a good report about where they were going, and would ultimately lead Israel into her Promised Land. Yet before all of that, as a young man he did something so odd that someone made note of it at the tail end of a narrative that wasn’t yet about him.
Joshua stayed in that tent.
This is what I told Mateo matters. We don’t know how long Joshua stayed in the tent of meeting. Or why. Just that he did. Imagine being the fly on the wall to God meeting with Moses. I wouldn’t leave the tent either. I probably wouldn’t be able to get up off my face or put words into sentences after witnessing that. So that was my advice to Mateo. That he finds a way to stay – to abide – in the Presence of God. Now. While he is young. After the baptism, after the church service, after the speaker goes home, after the lesson is over, after a bad day at school, after his heart gets broken, after he succeeds and after he fails. Pitch that tent and stay there. Learn to know the Voice of God. Acquaint himself with the holy. Before he meets whatever it is that God has called his life to be about. So that he can go forward and give a good report. So that he can be confident and sure of what that still, small voice sounds like when the rest of life is a clamorous noise. Because He knows that Voice like his own best friend.
As for me, I felt called to start hand copying Scripture after hearing a story about a woman who’d done so for each of her children. What a thing – I was inspired. This was God calling me to the tent of meeting. It has come with me everywhere I’ve gone and through every high and low season. It is the most valuable thing I possess. It is perfectly ordinary – nothing but a stack of paper bought for 25 cents a package. So I pitched a tent and I’ve been there ever since. This abiding has anchored me in storms that should have sunk me. I know the Voice that has called me out. I can confidently give a good report, seeing potential where others see ruin.
What this looks like for Mateo and our other kids, is for them to sort out. I’d hate for my project to become a monument where they get stuck. Whatever their tent of meeting is, God will show them. My husband is a music guy. That’s what speaks to him and where he sees and hears from God. I’m a word girl. Give me words, all the words. We each find our own way to encountering the Holy, whether that be in the middle of a desert, on a mountain top, in a moment of song and worship, in stillness, in prayer, over coffee with friends, in a church service, or at the kitchen table with pen and paper in hand.
This abiding thing. It is where deep calls out to deep and it’s exceptionally more difficult than I’ve made it sound here. Because really, it’s supposed to go out from us and bring this light to the world and I really don’t know how to do that right. It’s not about us at all. That was why I wasn’t sure if I should post that picture of my stack of paper Bible. Sometimes I think Jesus needs to make me invisible so that I get out of the way of people getting to Him. I’m no evangelist on account of my lack of people skills. I read Scripture and wonder at how the Gospel got spread because thank God that Paul was there and that the early church was fearless. The apostle Paul – tent maker for a living and a tent pitcher for the Kingdom, making the Gospel a mansion where there’s room for everyone and showing people how to get there. And all I have is my pen and my paper and my Bible and it feels very much ordinary and inadequate in a world that spurns the sacred and holy. So I abide, in hope that in my meeting with God, someone else follows and gets stuck in the tent like Joshua shadowing Moses, and refuses to depart from it too.
It’s all I have to give.
copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved