The idea birthed from a conversation Lisa and I had about what we could do for our kids at Christmas. Our family continues to grow with two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and the random foster child here or there. Lisa thought laser tag in the front yard would be great fun…seriously laser tag in the front yard? I then suggested something a little more primitive, something so not us, something that would scream, “out of my comfort zone, nobody loves me.” Camping!
The family, ours that is, does not have any experience in camping, no equipment, no fond memories, no technique, no folk singing skills, (unless karaoke counts), limited grilling skills and frankly absolutely no desire. However, we dove right in. Air mattresses wrapped under the tree was the first indication that we had definitely hit a new low of expressing our deep and sincere love to this growing family of ours. The reactions were polite, initially: “wow, thank you”, “this will be fun”, “all of us together?” Then the veiled complaints started to roll in, primarily in the form of questions: “what if it rains”, “where are we going to sleep”, “I think I have a conference call that day”, “the kids will get lost” etc. However, we forged ahead.
The day of camping came (only one night that is), and we did execute the adventure quite well for a bunch of camping rookies. We packed too many clothes, had just enough food, didn’t have a good knife, almost ran out of charcoal, had plenty of marshmallows, never opened the peanuts, and told a spooky story about Old Man River before bedtime (grandchildren haven’t slept since and will wear diapers for another year). We then slowly drifted off to our tents for an apprehensive night of sleep. We were all wondering just how we would do. The quiet and protected thoughts ranged from concern about the temperature, bug bites, slithery snakes, creepy gators, our sleeping comfort, using the bathroom in the middle of the night and then, always, the omnipresent, though occasional roaming serial killer (the zipper on the tent only prematurely awakens you to the horror).
Sometime in the pre-dawn hours I remember sensing a flash of light in and around me. I slowly opened my eyes to have a beautiful view of the night sky and its horizon. My attention was drawn to several very large thunderclouds in the distance and in total silence they would randomly glow, a glow that was generated by these beautiful flashes of lightning…no sound, just flashes of light. These large clouds simply would glow like huge Chinese lanterns. I leaned over and tapped Lisa and nudged her to wake and watch this beautiful site, not sure she had the same appreciation, but I did want to share this experience, part of loving someone.
I simply watched for a few moments until my eyes got heavy again and fell back to my camping sleep. I thought to myself as I was falling asleep that God simply woke me up to show off. Seriously, God was having fun, playing with His creation and waking me up was just fine with Him. Honestly, most of the entire city was asleep in their comfortable beds and rooms with roofs over their heads with no opportunity to see what God was doing in His night sky canvas. God didn’t care, this was His “me” time. God simply decided to share His fun and tapped me on the shoulder, saying, “Hey, watch this, and this, and this…. pretty cool right?” My response, “Oh yea God, very, very cool, thanks for showing off.” I slowly drifted back to sleep feeling quite special that God would wake me up to show me something He was doing.
I do realize, especially when I choose to slow down a bit, that God seems to show off a lot, and He loves us so much that He too wants to wake us up and share the experience. Sometimes we simply don’t wake up and see it. Thank you, God, for being a show off; your creation is a great display of that, and we are still gazing at it with amazement and doing everything we can to even reach it. Thank you for showing us how babies are formed, how flowers blossom, how birds fly, how a tune gets stuck in my head, how to laugh out loud (and quietly), how to cry, even when I’m not sad, how to say sorry when I thought I was so right, how to mourn a life by celebrating it, how to plan all the while knowing we have no idea, how to rejoice rather than worry, and eventually getting closer to understanding that your life, dear Jesus, on earth was the ultimate showing off…the life, the cross, the burial the resurrection, the great charge…all of it. God, you loved me so much you had to show off to all of creation. Thank you.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at goodnewsfl.org/author/