The Tent

This meditation in verse uses the image of a tent. This is an old and sacred image – the Israelites wandering for forty years in the desert provided a home for the real presence of God accompanying them – the only home they could supply: a tent. And so the Ark of the Covenant was sheltered by a tent. No surprise that the word ‘tabernacle’, which we use in the Catholic tradition for the place in church where God’s real presence dwells, is Latin for… tent (literally ‘small house’).

Away, away, to the core of your being;

Put aside for the briefest moment,

All the clutter that stops you seeing.


Imagine with your mind’s eye you’re on a journey,

Walking by your self into a bleak desert land.

All around is increasingly barren and desolate,

No clear path but somehow you understand.


Take a moment to survey the arid scene…

Use your imagination’s power to view:

Explore the nature of this prayer country;

Your mind can make it very real to you.


There is no searing heat or glaring sun, but

A gathering wind and a restless distant form.

What looks like a fog is coming towards you;

Swirling and whipping up a biting sandstorm.


So tempting to run back to the familiarities

Of daily life however uninviting they be.

Your hesitancy is part fear, part distraction:

Keep with the journey – focus on the scenery.


The storm is raging now – take courage!

So many turn back and few will venture on.

The so-called ‘real world’ is dragging you back;

This journey matters. Stand firm! Be strong!


The sand is stinging your hands and face;

Try as you might, it’s so very hard to see.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other;

You struggle, you doubt, where is reality?


Ahead now you sense a shape appearing.

As you approach it seems to be – agitated.

It’s a tent of the old fashioned canvas sort:

Material flapping and clearly somewhat dated.


As you stand before this nomadic dwelling,

Know that this tent represents your own story:

It’s an image of your own soul, you your self…

Look carefully at the fabric of this allegory.


Examine the condition of this transient abode:

Are you wearing well despite the elements’ attack?

Or are you tattered and ripped to shreds, so

Aware of how you hurt and what you lack?


Stay here please… this really matters.


Take time, your time, God’s time, to really look;

To see the tears, the holes, the hasty repairs;

The new patches, some neat, others rough;

Representing joys, woes, hopes, despairs.


Can you look at this tent or will you run?

Does sorrow and regret crash in on you?

Threatening to drown you in a sea of sand?

Stay with the pain and focus on the view.


Some of us will be faring worse than others.

Some will be pristine, proofed by selfishness;

Others battered and bloodied by love’s cost;

None is perfect – where is your own distress?


You have come far and maybe felt much.

But to face our wounds is to tempt despair:

Gazing is not the point, nor your journey’s end:

Draw close to the tent and enter into there.


Pull back the cloth and step inside your self:

Realise that no matter how torn or rent,

No matter how wild and blustery outside,

A quiet calm seems to pervade the tent.


At the centre of the tent, your tent,

Is a fire, a living life-enhancing flame:

God’s presence tabernacling in you –

His profound promise – always to remain.


There is nothing, and no one, can

Ever cause His radiant warmth to go:

This is His doing – He delights in you;

His favoured place – He wants you to know.


If the fabric of your life is so damaged,

That you are spent and bereft of hope;

Know that this is not your story’s end:

His power within will help you cope.


There is revelation, and deep mystery here:

In this sacred space, your holy of holies,

God Himself in your core, closer than close,

Delights, indwells, and gladly tarries.


Now, stay and warm your self awhile.

Take time, enjoy, don’t talk or fret.

Recharge, revive, relax, redeem;

Despite the storms – bide a while yet.