Summer is a relatively slow time in church life, and as such, it is usually the time when we have a chance to get away with family for some much-needed rest and relaxation. This past week, we went to visit Amy’s mom, who lives on a 12-acre ranch on the Rio Grande in New Mexico. It is a beautiful spot: our own heaven on earth, especially to the kids.
Mattias brought one of his best friends from Colorado with him, and the first night, they decided they were going to sleep outside in the apple orchard in grandma’s tent. So like a good and dutiful dad, I spent the next hour and a half wrestling with tent stakes and canvas in order to create something vaguely tent-like. All the while, the boys were so eager to get into the thing that they could hardly stand it.
The moment I gave them the go-ahead, they dashed inside as if paradise itself awaited them. Not surprisingly, little sister Zoe decided that she wanted to join them. And although she is five years younger and very mild-mannered, she is still a little sister. As such, she was banished hardly before she had her head through the tent opening. As they zipped up the tent behind her, her eyes filled with tears. She had been cast out. She was in social exile. Never mind that the only thing inside the tent was a dusty tarp, a handful of eager mosquitoes and some wiggly boys. The only thing she wanted in that moment to be inside the tent with them. It meant everything to her.
What kind of tentmakers are we? Are we more like Martha, so preoccupied with busywork that we neglect our neighbors, the guests of honor? Do we stand by and rejoice in the misfortune of others suffer the consequences of their own doing, rather than inviting them in and making room for them at the table, under the protection of our shade? When we see a stranger come by, do we drop everything, bring out the best of what we have and sit at their feet in humble service?
Granted, plans might have to change, we might have to share and, God forbid, something might get broken. But our tents only become holy ground when they are open to the stranger. Otherwise, they’re just four more walls in a world of walls, keeping us all further apart, and further away from the realization of God’s kingdom.
Christian Piatt is a Sojourners Featured Writer and an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist. He is director of church growth and development at First Christian Church in Portland, Ore. Christian is the creator and editor of Banned Questions About The Bibleand Banned Questions About Jesus. His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.