Outside the Camp

My wife and I live on 80 acres that once lay far outside the city. Recently, a high end golf community was built, wrapping around three sides of our property. It is a gated community, with smaller gated subdivisions within the neighborhood, setting the multimillion dollar homes apart from their less wealthy neighbors.

The houses are certainly magnificent, but each one is set so close to its neighbors you could pass a ball between them without leaving home. We are mystified why anyone with the resources to build these magnificent houses would want to squeeze themselves into such narrow spaces.

Every square foot of lawn is landscaped, every flowerbed perfectly weeded. The lawns resemble putting greens and there isn’t a trace of spontaneity in the entire neighborhood. As we drive through the streets, every view is absolutely perfect. Beauty and symmetry abound, but is something missing?

Does man function best when he has gained control over everything within his sight? Is there a beauty in the wildness of nature that fills a void in men’s souls? Is there something lost, is there some part of a human heart left empty, when we fill everything within our grasp with certainty and order?

God, Himself, fills the universe with uncertainty and disorder. He is adventurous and counterintuitive. He does the unexpected and replies to our questions in ways that seem, at first glance, to be wholly inappropriate. It seems Yahweh made man for adventure, inconvenience and surprise because He fills our lives with such things. No matter how hard we resist His efforts to bring mystery and awe, He just keeps on giving the unexpected.

Seeing how enthusiastically men crowd together, enforcing conformity of opinion, customs and thought, one wonders what they are trying to protect themselves from. Could it be God? They seem to find no comfort, unless every inch of their lives are accounted for. They cannot rest until they are able to find the familiar, no matter which way they turn.

In the Kingdom of God, however, we are to follow Jesus outside of the camp. It is counterintuitive to leave the camp of God, because the camp is where the tabernacle stood, it is where our friends and family live. It is familiar, a place we have dwelt in most of our lives. But if we are to find the life God prepared for us before the foundations of the earth, we must leave the safety of the camp and willingly walk into a land of chaos, darkness, danger and change.

It is no use seeking the life of God within the camp. He will not be found in our safe places because He has been led by the Spirit to places where He can give beauty for ashes, where He can comfort those who mourn and rebuild the waste places of many generations. It is there where our work awaits us. It is a place David found when, receiving evil for good, he gathered the outcasts of Israel together.

Jesus said a man’s enemies will be those of his own family. How is that possible? Is it because they beckon us, as Peter did Jesus, to abandon the destiny God has placed before us? Are we to follow the LORD, regardless of the fears of those around us? Are we to willingly endure the hardships of following Christ into danger and darkness? Only if we wish to experience His presence and resurrection life. Only if we long to experience all He has for us, to work beside Him and see the hand of God turn the wilderness of sin into a garden of life.