There are twelve people to whom that word brings an instant feeling of peace, joy, and absolute contentment. It's like when you take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh that says, "All is right with the world." That's what that word sounds like to us. And it looks like this:
You see, for the past four years, my family and some of our dearest friends...eh, let's just call them an extension of our family...have spent every Memorial and Labor Day weekend camping in a paradise on my grandparents' land in the Ozarks. You might say we live for camping. We spend countless hours planning our camping trips. We talk about how early we can get there, decide on our favorite camping meals, discuss which campsite we'd like to inhabit, check the weather to see if we'll freeze while swimming (for swim we will, regardless of temperature!), reminisce about past trips, and count down the days (sometimes from triple digits) until the next camping trip. To give you an idea of the extremity of our love for camping, for most of us our favorite holiday is now a toss up between Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Christmas.
Camping. According to one of our favorite camping quotes, it's "a bunch of bad ideas strung together over three or four days." But really, it's three or four days of swimming, hiking, shooting, whittling, eating, four-wheeling, Coke drinking, footballing, whiffle-balling, story telling, laughing, picture taking, Jesus loving, campfireing, and best-friend-quality-time-ing. It's almost perfect.
I don't know how many times we've thought or said something to the effect of, "I could live here forever!!!" And sometimes, we mean it. Even with the bugs and the sunburns and the cow patties and the sweat and the lousy sleep and the occasional squabbles of tired little girls and the allergies and the birds that wake you up at 4 a.m. and the tents that let the rain in and soak your stuff and the campfire smoke that always seems to blow directly toward your chair and the rocks that find their way to your feet no matter which shoes you wear in the creek...even with all the imperfections, we're content there.
But every time we go, my friend Mackie reminds me that being content is not the same as being satisfied. No matter how much fun we're having, Mackie keeps her perspective. Heaven is always in her conversation. It's always in her line of sight. Every single camping trip, she reminds me in some way or another that, "Camping is great, but heaven is better." She doesn't forget that this isn't all there is. She's like Abraham in Hebrews 11:10, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." Mackie loves now, but she never stops looking forward.
Mackie is ten years younger than I am. I think that's why she gets it. See, I think the longer you're around in this sin-infested world, the less perfection is required to attract and satisfy you. The more heartbreak and heartache and imperfection you experience, the lower your standards become for something you consider perfect.
I mean, really? Who in their right mind would consider sleeping on the ground with ticks in a field that smells like cow patties to be eternally attractive?? Sure, it's great for a weekend. And sure, maybe we'd even enjoy living out the remainder of our earthly life right there ('cause yeah, we're weird). But we have to keep our perspective.
We have to keep the perspective of the children. Mark 10:15, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." If we want to get in, we have to see it like they see it. We have to see it as the only thing that satisfies. They know it's silly to be satisfied by tick-infested, cow-pattie ground.
Paul, the same Paul who says he learned how to be content in all circumstances, was not satisfied with this earth. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling." We long for heaven, for eternity in perfect communion with God, because nothing here can truly satisfy.
Camping doesn't satisfy. A beach vacation doesn't satisfy. A mountain ski resort doesn't satisfy. The ideal career doesn't satisfy. Achieving your goals and dreams doesn't satisfy. Finding your God-chosen spouse and having a loving, happy family doesn't satisfy. And, listen, not even serving God to your fullest potential will satisfy. That is evident in Paul's longing. We know of few who served the Lord with as much fervor and faithfulness and reckless abandon as Paul did, but he wasn't satisfied. He was longing for his heavenly dwelling.
So we find ourselves walking a very thin tightrope. We must be content. But we must not be satisfied. Because camping is great, but heaven is better.
"I know there'll be a moment
I know there'll be a place
Where we will see our Savior
And fall in His embrace
So let us not grow weary
Or too content to stay
'Cause we are not home yet
Keep on lookin' ahead
Let your heart not forget
We are not home yet!"
~Steven Curtis Chapman