a christian perspective on the world today

“Good luck, Grandma” -and Other Camping Adventures

Some people feel the only problem with family holidays is that you’re expected to take the family. When the kids go along to an amusement park, you can bet you’ll end up on the “Twirling Cups of Gastric Distress” instead of the ride you really want, which is the “Palm Trees of Solitude.”

But most of us feel that family vacations are an opportunity to make happy memories together. We hope our kids will grow up to say, “Mum, remember that time we watched the sun set over the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef and held hands while singing together? Thanks for making that possible.”

Hah! Who are we kidding? It’s more likely they’ll say, “Great Barrier? Was that the place where the battery on my PSP died and we were so bored we actually talked about the different colours in the sky?”

If you want to make good memories, you should go camping. I’m talking about sleeping in a tent. Travelling in one of those fancy caravans doesn’t count. If you have to send your valet out to help you back into the camp site, you can’t call it camping.

Real camping puts you in touch with nature. This is usually a good thing, unless you’re trying to sleep and a lump of nature is poking through the tent floor into your lower back.

You can also feel a little too close to nature if you’re in a place where they have bears. It plays on your nerves when the only thing between you and the largest carnivores in North America is a sheet of water-proofed nylon.

I remember going camping at Yellowstone National Park, where their motto is: “Don’t come crying to us. We told you not to feed the bears.” I was a boy at the time and was comforted by having a parent on either side of me in the small tent. But the experience was different for my grandmother, who joined us on this trip.

She felt some tension between the call of nature during the night and the fear of whatever nature was waiting in the dark, between the tent and the toilet block.

Eventually, the struggle was resolved with her pushing out of the tent flap, swinging her flashlight like an airport beacon and loudly humming “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” At the final judgment, we will have to answer for not escorting Grandma to the facilities. It’s just that we felt we had more to live for.

Speaking of the facilities, you have to keep in mind that campground bathrooms can be primitive. I visited one shower where the spiders were so big they would hand you your towel when you finished.

So camping isn’t for everyone. The Bible’s King David said, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10). “Wicked” is a pretty strong word, so I assume that he must have just gotten back from a cold and rainy weekend.

Today, camping is a religious experience for some Jews. In the autumn, they have the Feast of Tabernacles. This commemorates the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness—looking for a park that didn’t need advance reservations.

During the feast, the Jews live in huts and remember how God provided for all their needs. They may not have had carpeting and central air conditioning but they had food and water. They had their health.

It’s when you trust God to provide for your needs that you can really take a holiday from stress and enjoy some peace of mind. Just don’t camp too close to the bears.

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