Tentmakers

It’s a dirty job

I’m not much of a camper. I have four experiences I can actually remember and the words that come to mind for each one in order are cold, cramped, faraway and dirty. These experiences must have had some impact because I can still vividly remember each one. The most memorable experience I have was the last one and probably why it was the last one.

Just dirt

Imagine a vast dry land with gusting winds. The goal was to build shelter just to provide some small relief from the blowing dirt and dust. Did I mention we were camping on dirt? Have you ever tried to build a tent in the wind, while breathing in dirt? Just when you think you had it right, a firm gust destroyed the work, and put more dirt in your mouth if you actually needed to breathe. At some point, the dirt was so pervasive, hair became crunchy and styled like Moses in the Ten Commandments, mouths spat dirt like Jesus healing a blind eye and any uncovered path into the body became a tunnel of mud. Dirt covered every inch of everything. When the decision was made to give up, the dirt went home with me and it actually still exists in some corners of the garage.

What it means to me

I pull this term tentmaking from the book of Acts where Paul is referred to as a tentmaker by trade and in the church universal, it generally means a vocational minister where the church cannot fully support the work of the ministry. Throughout my Christian life, I have had many opportunities to serve in the church and in the community. These experiences were pure ministry but without my “tentmaking”, I’d be on the street as volunteering does not pay the bills. Whether it was in the church or in the community, the person that was me is the person that I always hoped to leave with those who crossed my path.

The application today is trying to reconcile work in a world that we ultimately look forward to leaving. We are called to work.  I know of so many great people who come home after a hard day, beat up by bosses, coworkers, customers, etc. yet the person I know is not that defeated person. I reflect on the tough days I have as well, often misunderstood by those who feel it is easier to just criticize than improve self.

Who you really are

That dirty tentmaking day provides a nice picture.  As Christians, our work is tentmaking. It is what we have been blessed to do while we are here making a difference in the lives of those around us. The dirt of the world may change us externally, but it is not who we are. It is not a reflection of the inner creation. We need to realize that the dirt that sticks to us, whether it is how we are treated or spoken to, is just that, dirt. When we cleanse ourselves in the truth of who our creator made us to be, we are empowered to go back out, do the work we need to do and return to the presence of God daily knowing He sees our heart. The world will attempt to make the dirt stick to you but remind yourself daily that the early apostles lived in a dirty world and they had a greater purpose while tentmaking. There is a purpose for being out there, find the lessons in personal growth and showing that you are different. And then take a shower.

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