(2) Enlarge your encampment,
And your tent curtains,
Stretch out and don’t hold back.
Lengthen your tent ropes,
And strengthen your tent pegs. — Isaiah 54:2
I like to go camping, though I haven’t done so in quite a few years. I recall a number of difficult campsites, however. One in particular stands out, near Priest Lake in Idaho. The problem was roots. Roots were everywhere. Each time I tried to drive in a peg to secure the ropes from my tent, I hit a root. Now I had the alternatives of going outward, further away from the tent. This would work, but it put stress on the peg at a different angle, and they had the tendency to pull out.
It was on that camping trip that I â€œstrengthened my tent pegs.â€ At a hardware store I bought some very large spikes. They were not nearly as good looking as the nice plastic pegs, color coordinated, that had come with the tent, but they had a major advantage. First, being stronger, I could pound them in the ground even when there were roots and hard soil. Second, once they were in, they were long enough that they stayed there.
There’s a simple rule here: Larger tent, stronger stakes. You can extend it: Longer ropes, stronger stakes.
Anyone who has had to pitch a tent probably has some understanding of what I’m saying here. If your tent pegs aren’t up to the task, your tent isn’t going to stay pitched, and it is very important that your tent stays firm. If the fabric is not solidly stretched out it will not shed water as well, and even a waterproof tent is annoying once water has pooled in loose folds of cloth.
I’ve heard this passage form Isaiah 54 preached any number of times. I’ve heard many people pray it over folks at the altar as a promise. I’ve done it myself many times. In these sermons and prayers I hear a great deal about the larger campsite or living area, the bigger tent curtains and flaps, and the longer ropes. I hear much less about the strengthened tent pegs.
Now we can’t all always preach a precisely balanced sermon or pray a precisely balanced prayer. The Bible doesn’t manage to make every verse or passage precisely balanced either. But I think in this case I see the results of extended imbalance in our lives and in our churches.
I am an advocate of diversity, of not being too doctrinally tense–unity on essentials and diversity on the non-essentials. But even to conduct effective dialogue you have to know your starting point. Often people believe that in order to get along, in order to have an effective conversation, you need to be completely affirming of everything the other person may say. I would suggest, instead, that you need to strengthen your stakes, that you need to know even more definitely who you are and where you are going. Then you can examine someone else’s position without fear, and you also have something to present to them.
Do extend your boundaries today, but don’t forget to check out the tent pegs!