The occasional crackle from a campfire flame, amidst a mild smoke that meanders toward a clear spring sky. The crinkle of a graham cracker package as tiny fingers reach for a crisp wafer while hints of laughter and soft music play in the distance.
Pondering these imaginations and hoping for a weekend trip, I started to think of people who camped before me. I’m not speaking of those who benefitted over the years from the National Park Service (nps.gov) we have in America–but instead of overseas ancestors. The ones for whom the camping experience was a way of life because God chose them.
The Israelites were freed from Egypt by God’s hand as He used Moses to perform signs and wonders that angered and engulfed Pharaoh. Disobedience led God’s chosen people into captivity, and yet He rescued them. Once in the desert, the people immediately became restless and yearned for the comforts of a home they never wanted. Despite being in bondage and serving as slaves, they had grown accustomed to their way of life. The uncertainties of what lay ahead frightened them. We often see change as a loss–even when it’s a good change. But if we stayed the same, we would stay the same–nothing would get better. And after all, isn’t change how we grow?
Maybe it’s my joy of English, but I love the symbolism I find in camping and how they relate to spiritual growth.
For example, the Festival of Booths. According to the website Jews for Jesus, “Jewish people around the world construct sukkot frail huts or booths that remind us of God’s provision and our dependence on Him.”
I love this! It makes me smile to visualize campers struggling with nylon tents. Even with our modernization of equipment, we are frail compared to God; we still need Him. And He still proves Himself faithful to choose us, pursue us, speak to us and bless us–despite the fact we wander. The Bible tells us if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. (James 4:8) We don’t have to go through the process of growth alone. The Israelites camped and followed God in the desert as a collected group of sojourners. They went through massive changes in their lives–homeland, lifestyle, laws–in the context of community.
We are to grow together, teach each other, learn from each other, and share our unique gifts. (1 Peter 4:10) God also says it’s from within the framework of relationship that we are to bring about the gospel’s message to those around us. (2 Timothy 2:2) But how do we leave the confines of contentment to pursue the change of spiritual growth? What will give us the guts to share the gospel?
I believe the answer is discipleship. We practice together–praying one-sentence prayers, studying the Word together, then doing the same for others–disciples who make disciples–that’s the plan given us. (Matthew 28:19-20)
I encourage you to do that–find someone who can teach you–find a mentor–and then become one. You can start at home, but don’t stop there. Consider holding a Bible Study, then invite your neighbors. And as the weather begins to welcome us outside, maybe even take the discussion around a campfire on a clear spring day. ■