Tent life

Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians, and I usually find myself laughing along in solidarity with most of his jokes, whether he is quipping about parenting or bacon. I like to think that our big families would get along well together, and hilarity would naturally ensue. But there’s one area where we disagree: camping. Here’s what Gaffigan says about camping: “My wife is always bringing up that camping is a tradition in her family. Hey, it was a tradition in everybody’s family until we came up with the house! My parents never took me camping, and you know why? Because they loved me.” 

Yes, it’s funny, and I laughed too, but Jim is wrong. Camping is the best. In this instance, I align myself more with Douglas Kaine McKelvey and these words from his book Every Moment Holy

“How fitting to be reminded of our state as pilgrims, whose transient homes of brick and wood and stone, in the light of those eternal dwellings for which we long, are no more substantial than the wind-rippled canvas of these tents in which we pass the night. Restore us to our truer, wilder stories, O God. In this wilderness, may our hearts be shed of the insulating layers of daily routines, of the duties and comforts that distract and lull us, of the numbing surplus of our possessions. Here let us feel ourselves more vulnerable and in awe, silhouetted against the backdrop of your beauty and holiness, small beneath towering trees and wide skies, small but known.”

My family is a camping family . . . the tenting variety, the kind who purposely sleep on the ground and use pit toilets and take showers only when we can’t stand our own stink anymore. A few years ago we did an epic Western adventure for a full month of camping in 13 different national parks. We’ve camped with great friends of ours every summer for 12 years straight, through the years of Pack ’n Plays and potty training catastrophes. For me, camping is about connections. Connections to family, to friends. Connections to the past. Connections to nature, and thus, more important, to God, who reveals himself to us in nature. “Small but known,” says McKelvey. We are a small part of God’s creation, and we humbly and fully realize that while hunkering down in a slip of a tent miles away from anywhere or anybody else. And yet, we are known. We are known by God, our Creator, who made us in his image. And ultimately, our dwelling is in him.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1,2).

Away from the distractions and all the “stuff” of this world, we are free to relax, explore, and connect with others and with our Savior. When we’re stripped down to the essentials in our campsite—our six plates and cast iron pan (okay, and my French press . . . I’m not a monster), our blue tent and sleeping bags, our journals and our Bibles, we can focus on what’s really important. I feel at peace. 

Maybe you’re not a camper—that’s okay. Maybe we can still be friends. But I would recommend that this summer you at least try to get out into nature a bit, away from the masses. Away from your typical dwelling place. Away from Wi-Fi. Disconnect. And then connect . . . with people, with nature, with Jesus, with the fact that our brick-and-mortar homes are just as temporary as our pop-up tents. I can’t help but think of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years, sleeping in makeshift dwellings every night. Forced to rely on God for manna and quail and guidance to the Promised Land. What a reminder of who is in control; what a reminder of who provides for us and who leads us to our promised home in heaven, our permanent dwelling place with the Lord.


Missy lives in Green Bay, WI, with her husband, Jon, where they own and run Copper State Brewing Company. She homeschools their four active children, oftentimes at the brewery, and they somehow keep learning in spite of her. Missy loves witty banter, adventures of all sorts, and coffee . . . lots of coffee. And Jesus . . . lots of Jesus.


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