I had come to love the Tent Village. I had found it years ago, after too long a time of sojourning alone, just one of the many solitary tent dwellers in the Great Forest. What a welcome find it had been, a place to pitch my somewhat disheveled tent in the midst of a friendly company of others. Mine wasn’t the newest, but it was far from the frailest. In fact, the village was a wondrous variety of tents: colors, shapes, sizes, designs. Some seemed pretty new, but many more proudly bore the marks and patches of a journey well-traveled.
But the most striking thing about the Village wasn’t the tents themselves, but the warm community of those who lived in them. When I first arrived, lonely and aimless, they had given me an amazingly warm welcome. Over time I started to understand that there was a deeper dimension to the outward friendliness. They genuinely cared about, and even loved, one another as well as the newcomers. More than talking about it, they showed it through their actions. They shared each others’ joys and sorrows. They came to each others’ aid when trouble came calling. They provided spiritual comfort and even food for the many solitary tent dwellers who still wandered in the surrounding forest.
Through caring, applied elbow grease and generous sharing of resources, they had built the Village into a beautiful place that sheltered, nurtured, and served not only the tents within, but so many of those in the forest beyond.
I had once been one of those forest wanderers, but thanks to the Village I would never be one again.
Just as I had once arrived, there were others who arrived after me. There were those who after a season or many seasons packed up and moved on. We wished them fond farewell and hoped they would find another good tent village to be a part of. Every once in a while our Village lost one of its tents, one that due to final frailty could stand no longer. We mourned the loss of each and every one of these, but we also celebrated them.
I remember the first time I attended one of these celebrations. I barely knew the dwellers of that grand old tent. But I remembered that despite its many patches and the worn fabric, I suspected that it had once been magnificent. My suspicions were confirmed as I listened to celebrants who shared stories about the grand tent from the Old Days. I hadn’t been part of the Village then. I had still been wandering in the forest alone. That’s when it struck me. When the old tent had been in its magnificent prime, it was an important contributor to the Village, helping build both the facilities and the culture to equip the Village for its Future Days. And it had not been alone. Each and every tent, past and present, helped make the Village a wondrous place. The dwellers of the grand old tent had barely known me, and I barely knew them. But I was now living in the Future Days that they had helped ensure would one day come.
My tent won’t last forever. But ever since that celebration day, I have redoubled my commitment to ensure that our Village will have not just Old Days but Future Days. In those Future Days more forest wanderers will find the wondrous village. They may never know me, but even though my tent will be gone I will be part of their warm welcome to The Wondrous Tent Village.
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For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.- 2 Corinthians 5:5 New Living Translation (NLT)
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.–Galatians 6:2 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’– Matthew 25:40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)