I am not a camper. In my opinion, tents should be limited to military bivouacs or emergency shelters. My husband delights in telling all who will listen that he has had me in tents only twice in 57 years of married life. And both times were…intense.
But even I know the importance of tent pegs. Without the proper peg, made of a suitable material, and without its proper use, tent occupants may awaken to canvas floating onto their faces or, in windy conditions, said canvas whipping away. One expert says that in addition to holding the tent in place, pegs help maintain the tent’s shape.
My fairly well-worn Bible has lots of underlining, countless asterisks, usually decipherable notes and dates to mark a certain phrase or verse that had special meaning. In the margin near Psalm 31:14-15 I’ve written these words: TENT PEG!
What was happening in writer David’s life to initiate these words: I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God” My times are in your hands…? And why are these words so important to me? Why do I need them as an anchor so I won’t “float away,” so I “maintain my proper emotional and spiritual shape”?
It’s likely that Psalm 31 was written in response to critical events in David’s life. Although anointed as king, he was being pursued by Saul and his armies (see 1 Samuel 23). Saul was deternined to kill this upstart in order to maintain his own position even though he’d been warned that because of rebellion and self-centeredness, “The Lord had torn the kingdom from him.” In the psalm David reveals his vulnerability with words like anguish, affliction, contempt, forgotten. Words that picture a man who is on the verge of losing not only a worthy goal, but his own life.
I’ve never been in the midst of a military battle. I’ve never had to literally fight for my life. But countless times I’ve had to choose to say, “I trust in you, Lord” in the midst of a spiritual or emotional battle. Often those words have come in what a call the paradox of hopeless faith–perhaps like Peter when in a mixture of resignation and faith he said to Jesus, “Master, to whom would we go? We’ve thrown in our lot with you, we’ve cut all our ties, you’re the only one left, you’re IT!” Whatever Peter’s tone of voice, whatever David or Marilyn’s tone of voice, Jesus accepts the declaration.
But it’s the next phrase that pounds in my tent peg with the mallet of conviction: “My times are in your hands…” That means I choose not to live in regret, in the murky waters of “what might have been.” To be honest, it can be comfortable to live there awhile, to dwell on decisions made in the past, to wonder what life would have been like if… But that’s only a place to visit, not settle into. My yesterdays, my todays, my tomorrows are anchored in the One most trustworthy.
Thomas Cranmer, a 16th century Christian martyr, said it best, God takes us on journeys where we do not wish to go. He makes us travel by roads we do not wish to use…to take us to places that we never wish to leave.