Life As A Tent-Dweller
The church down the street from me is about to celebrate its 125th anniversary. My closest friend right now lives within 30 minutes of her childhood town, and she’s about to marry her high school sweetheart. This small-town sameness is new to me. I have moved over twenty times in the past four years. I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Denver, Nashville, San Antonio, Chicago, and I somehow ended up in a teeny-tiny little town in Northern Oklahoma. The friends I met along the way are mostly still where I left them, except now they’re just further along in their timeline: graduated, engaged, or married.
I have moved a lot in the past few years, and the response is almost always one of admiration. People will say, “I wish I could travel like that!” and I understand where they’re coming from. I really do. I chose this nomadic sort of lifestyle, and I have no regrets, but it’s hard to uproot over and over again. It’s hard to never make lasting friendships because you know each place is fleeting and you’ll soon be moving on. Eventually, I numbed myself from the pain that comes with constantly meeting and breaking friendships and have only recently re-learned how to feel and live out vulnerability.
Honestly, I feel a bit like a pinball bouncing all over the US, never staying long enough to catch my breath while my childhood friends are living their linear lives: graduating, marrying, having babies, getting promotions, raising families. Then there’s me, flitting in and out of their lives with quick visits, watching from the shadows while they live out the things we used to talk about at sleepovers.
Am I jealous? No. I like to live in the fast lane, and I abandoned the traditional path so I could say “yes” to new opportunities. But, like anything, that was a season. I know that it’s now a season for slowing down, for putting down those roots good and deep, learning how to make local friends, and learning what this new “normal” looks like for me.
But as I am re-settling, I am taunted with what the past four years were for. Did this constant moving to and fro make me miss out on something? Did I miss God’s provision or plan somehow because I was so busy jumping from place to place? I don’t think I’ll ever entirely know the answer to that this side of heaven, but, recently, I have been reminded of Abraham, the tent-dweller who was also called “a Friend of God.”
He was called to leave his family, his people, and his country and, for a while, he too lived as a sojourner. The idea of being a “nomad” is what resonates most with me, but that is not what Abraham is known for. What we think of is his pliability to God’s commands, even when it came to sacrificing his own favored son, Isaac (Genesis 22). He was detached from his relationships and possessions for the sake of his God in a way that few are. This is the “tent-life principle” I so admire.
Theodore Epp once wrote,
We need to remember that we have a life to live before God, and we have a life to live in the world. In the world, we still have need of many material things. We need clothing, and food and a dwelling-place. We may use them, but we must not be governed by them. We can have them, or we can let them go; they can be given, and they can be taken away. This is the principle of the tent-life.
It is hard to say if every single move was God’s perfect will for my life, but I know He can redeem everything. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He is showing me that He used that season to enrich my reverence for Him, even if I didn’t see that fruit right away.
Perhaps you’re like me, and you’ve felt like you’ve lived on the fringe of life because you didn’t build a “normal” slow and steady life like everyone else, and you question your obedience to God. Perhaps you too feel a bit unsettled, like a sojourner just passing through. Dear girl, give it to Him and He’ll take those fragments and piece together a magnificent work of art. While I am tempted to belittle my own experiences because they don’t look exactly like my peers, I know that God has used them to refine the tent-life principle in me: to regard this life and its possessions lightly. Just as I was passing through the blur of new cities, so we should regard this life. We’re just tent-dwellers on our way to a permanent home.
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1
What does the tent-dweller principle represent in your life? How would you feel if it was taken away?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In 2018, Payden earned her B.A. in English from Regent University and is now pursuing her M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Oklahoma State University. A road trip aficionado, Payden can be found traveling the beautiful U.S. when her nose is not stuck in a textbook. She has a desire to help other women see the freedom and fullness that comes in living a life abandoned to Christ and wants to spend every waking minute pursuing God's call on her life. You can find her on Instagram at @payd.in.full.