Today’s reading: 3 Nephi 22
2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes;
Early in my adult life, I learned that some people are dangerous. And while I am not naïve, I also have not always had the tools to set emotional and physical boundaries with people who were more interested in themselves than the wounds they inflicted on me. Wounds that over time, sat in the bottom of my soul, unprocessed.
Over the years, my heart yearned for ties that bind people together, but I had a deep-seated mistrust of people. I mistrusted their intent in my life, what they wanted from me and what they were willing to do to get what they wanted. And I even often mistrusted myself. Consequently, these feelings led to my inability to successfully create permanent lasting relationships. I felt caged, agitated, ready to jump and run even as part of me wanted to continue to engage in the process of building and reaching out. I was torn, raw, unhealed.
In other words, I was at a prime intersection of choice, in need of help. I needed to symbolically enlarge my tent and strengthen my stakes.
As Nephi famously stated: My father dwelt in a tent. Tents are a place of protection and gathering. And stakes secure tents to the ground so they do not blow away or shift with the elements. I realized I needed to learn how to create a tent to let people gather under. I needed to find a way to let people in again. To risk. To love. I needed to open my heart to creating things that lasted.
Fortunately for me, I knew a Master Tentmaker. He often let me watch as He gathered people into His tent. I watched who He gathered and how He spent His time. I watched as He washed people’s feet and served them without any thought of reward. He never asked more than was His due and He earned my respect. He taught me the about the Spirit and in helping discerning people’s intentions. And He showed me the power of boundaries, of respect for self and the beauty of choice.
Once I felt comfortable in His tent, comfortable mingling and meeting with others, then one gentle stake at a time, He allowed me to feel – without fear – being tethered to something permanent. He gave me all the space I needed to work through securing the tent. Sometimes I would rip up the stakes we had just hammered into the ground because I felt suffocated, confined. I didn’t like it; I didn’t want it. I was unsure the expectations or what was being asked of me.
Every time, He let me go at my own pace, waiting on the sand for me to pick up the stake, feel it’s weight in my hand and try again. I took time to act according to my deepest desires and not just my deepest fears. It was painful, arduous, deliberate work. But through fasting, prayer, church and temple attendance, I learned the beauty and synergy of gathering in proverbial tents and the subtle peace of being bound to the Master Tentmaker and others like Him.
Over a decade later, I sit in the symbolic tent of my own family. It took faith for me to build, to stake down and make permanent. It has not always been an easy, intuitive process and sometimes along the way I have felt suffocated and trapped. Taking on marriage, children and church callings has tested my resolve to be healed and connected. But I have enlarged and established my tent beside the Master Tentmaker and my greatest desire is to keep it safe and protected from the elements. On the nights when the cold rain of trial and doubt beat on my tent, I reinforce the stake of trust in marriage, the stake of trust in family, the stake of trust in Jesus and the stake of love of one another and self.
If you are feeling lost, used, alone, unable to act on the greatest good desires of your heart, don’t give up or despair. Come find the tent of the Master Tentmaker, become acquainted with Him, and when you are ready, learn how to build and stake a tent.