I have so many childhood memories of summer vacations. My family was poor. Maybe we didn’t have enough money to put curtains on our windows, but we did have enough to buy a canvas tent. Every summer, you could count on the fact that the Moores would be going camping somewhere. And that “somewhere” usually took us to the mountains of Colorado, Montana or Wyoming.
My dad had us so organized that when he hit the brakes, we jumped out of the car and set up camp with military precision. My brother Gary and I had the job of putting up the family tent. We prided ourselves on having it fully functional in three minutes. Of course, we had some great motivation: sleet, rain, snow, bears and Dad’s rule that no one could go to the bathroom until the tent was set up.
Looking back on those experiences, I want to share some of the lifelong lessons camping has taught me.
1. The shape of a mummy sleeping bag has nothing to do with the human body.
2. No matter which side of the tent you sleep on, yours will be the side that leaks when it rains.
3. There is no such thing as a level campsite. That’s a rumor campgrounds use in their brochures.
4. No matter how well you try to clear the debris from the ground under the tent, you’ll always find a rock under your sleeping bag.
5. There is no way to keep dirt out of a tent. After one day of camping, you could grow a garden with the amount of soil that has been tracked in.
6. When you go hiking, a pebble will find its way into your boot.
7. Yes, you are the only one sleeping, the woods are alive at night.
8. Given a chance, matches will find a way to get wet.
9. Matches don’t work in the woods.
10. When something is labeled “waterproof,” be forewarned. It doesn’t keep the water out but will do a perfect job of keeping the sweat in.
11. Tent stakes are made of the softest metal known to man.
12. Mosquitoes only show up when you run out of repellent.
13. Tents can never go back into the box in which they came.
14. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between freeze-dried food and dog food.
15. For every night you camp out, you will have one less tent stake than the night before.
16. At least once a night, the tent lines will come close to beheading someone.
17. Hammocks are for professionals. Don’t try this at home.
18. No matter which side of the campfire you face, the smoke will always drift your way.
19. Living in a tent for a week with your family will change your mind about buying a tiny house.
20. No matter what kind of clothes you bring, they’re sure to be the wrong ones.
21. The “Embrace Nature, Go Camping” campaign was started by the Motel Association.
22. The farther you go into the woods, the less the wood will burn.
23. All the bad things that happen will become what you brag about when you return home. “Remember the night the gale-force winds came and each kid held down a corner of the tent?”
24. You get to see the stars as never before and realize the greatness of our God.
25. But the best thing about camping is that you did it all with your family.
I don’t know if Mary and Joseph ever took Jesus camping; the Bible doesn’t say. Did Jesus grow up in a tent?
I don’t know, but the Bible does have a lot to say about family. The fifth commandment says to “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12). And when Joshua took over after Moses died, he announced to the country of Israel, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15b).
But the Bible has much more to say about husbands, wives and children. It is a book about family and how to survive (in my case, anyway) the challenges of camping.
Did you know Jesus enlarged the concept of family? One day he was speaking to a crowd and was told his mother and brothers wanted to talk to him. Our Lord used this moment to recast the definition of family: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50).
I realize some of you may feel as though you don’t have a family. But if you’re a follower of Jesus, you belong to one that will be yours for eternity. Just let me give you one piece of advice: Don’t let them take you camping.