"What is wrong with me?" I wondered.
All my grand visions for what I was going to do and how I was going to be different have just flown out the window. All the good habits I had begun had just sunk back to their previous levels of nonexistence. I was a slave again to sleep, my prayer life had fallen to pieces, and I spent my days sitting on my bed, doing stuff on my computer.
What in the world?
And then I realized it: I had pitched my tent.
I came back from Ellerslie and said to myself, "I'm not going to pitch my tent. I'm going to press in hard."
But then somehow another idea crept in unawares, and ever so subtly, it edged the first idea out. It was, "Well, now you've been to Ellerslie and you've learned all these great truths. Why don't you just sit back and let it do its work? You've got it. Now just let it play itself out."
I should have seen that for what it was: a pile of tent stakes laid out invitingly, just waiting for me to pound them in. But somehow, I didn't recognize it. It seemed reasonable. I just wanted a little downtime.
Pound, pound, pound--into the ground my tent stakes went.
Do you know it is impossible for "truth to just play itself out" when you have pitched your tent? No wonder my Christian life was going to pieces. I had become stationary. I had settled in. I was no longer pressing in hard.
Over Labor Day weekend my family camped for a night. Somehow the Lord brought me to my senses. I saw what I had done. I recognized the reason why my Christian walk had quickly become so pathetic.
The solution is so simple. Pull up the tent stakes! Press onward! No downtime! That is the ringing call of my soul. I will not settle.
What I mean when I say "Don't Pitch Your Tent"
On our second day of Ellerslie training, Eric Ludy told a story about taking voice lessons from Dr. Scott Martin, a preeminent vocal coach. He spent about ten minutes giving us a mind-boggling overview of some of the technical aspects related to singing, from proper breathing to where the sound bounces in your throat to controlling the position of your lips to influence your sound. I'll continue in Eric's own words.
My point is, you have no idea how much detail there is to singing--no idea--until you start getting into it, you start studying under a Yoga, okay? So, it's been a year, and I've been studying singing, and I've been expecting to reach some plateau somewhere along the line, because I was averaging (I didn't average 6 hours a day; I'm sorry to say that) I was averaging about two and a half hours a day. Every week, he would ask me how many hours, and every week he was mad at me. And I was giving everything I had, every spare moment I had, to train. Two and a half hours a day, by the way, is a lot of training, okay? And so he was always disgusted--never one compliment! For an entire year I didn't hear one good thing that I'd ever done. And I'm one of those guys who sort of works for the compliments, and so I kept going after it. He didn't give it. So there I am a year later. I finally got up the guts to ask him the question.
"Scott--how good am I?"
What does he do? He smiles. A little chuckle in his throat.
"Oh, you finally got up the guts to ask?"
"Yeah. Uh huh."
He said, "Eric, you played soccer, didn't you?"
"How old were you when you started playing soccer?"
"Okay. Imagine: You're seven years old and you're playing soccer for one month. How good were you?"
I'd been training for a year, killing myself for this guy, and I'm being compared with a seven-year-old playing soccer for one month? I mean, I was just falling apart at the seams!
And he goes, "And before you get too discouraged..."
(I'm like "Oh! Too late!")
He says, "Eric, you need to realize--this is very important; listen closely--singing is an endless frontier. You have taken one step into an endless frontier; you're asking how far you've gone. Eric, you've gone one step into an endless frontier. Now you need to realize, you're one step further than 99.9% of the rest of the human race. But NEVER PITCH YOUR TENT."
There's a gem for you right there. It'll change your life, like it did mine. Ellerslie's built upon this premise. It's the endless frontier. In other words, most of us are looking for a place to pitch our tent. "Well, how much more do I need to do to finally just get 'set' so I'm right with God, and everything's fine, and then I could live my life? I--I just want to find that spot." You know, most of us coming into Ellerslie--unintentionally we've pitched our tent, because we were ahead of the culture around us. Compared to the Christians around us, we were very impressive. "Hey, I'm going to Ellerslie." And we had pitched our tent.
Do you know what my desire is? I want to be the greatest husband in this generation. Why not? Who's competing with me? Isn't that an interesting thought? We have people that are trying to get to the Olympics, people that are trying to get into pro football, pro basketball, and pro baseball. And they're giving up their lives, spending their best energies, their best moments, on things that are trivial. How many of us are willing to give up our life for the things that are eternal? I want to be the greatest husband ever. And while I'm at it, I might as well seek to outpace Paul as a Christian. And you could say, "That's impossible." I don't care if it's impossible! I need a goal! I need something to aim for! And what are we aiming for? Jesus!
When you aim for Jesus, you do not pitch your tent. Will we ever reach Him this side of Eternity? Well, I hate answering that question because that's the classic question. We're still looking for a spot to pitch. I know I'm probably not going to be finished. (Okay, I should remove the "probably" in that.) I know I won't be finished. But I refuse to accept "not being finished." I press on! I want to see the full maturity of Christ in me and in you. Let's press on! Pull up the tent stakes! Onward! March!
And that's the environment you've come into. You start to get settled after three weeks? "OH, that was a hard three weeks. Whew! All right, that's a nice spot for a tent." Pull out the tent stakes, what's going to come out? "Hey! You're trying to put down your tent stakes!" And you're like, "Oops!"
It's a natural inclination. Right now you're like "Yeah, I don't want to put down tent stakes." But we just aim in that direction. We're looking to settle. God is looking for pioneers--those that will go out into the untamed territories that have been lost to modern Christianity.
No one has a map any more. You know what a map is? It's a human life, lived in front of a generation, that everyone can inspect and say, "So that's what it looks like." This generation is needing maps. It's needing men and women who forge into uncharted waters, who forge into uncharted territories, who face all the obstacles and then come back and say, "Look what my God did." And then everyone looks at them and says, "If they could do it, and if God was faithful for them, then He could be faithful for me. That's what Christian biography is. That's all it is--it's a whole bunch of maps for us to look at. We have the Word of God, and then God leverages the maps throughout the ages, the stories of the martyrs and the mighty men, to direct us and say, "See? I still work today."
You know one of the most common doctrines is the notion that, "Yeah, well the God of Acts, He doesn't work that way anymore."
Prove them wrong!
The God of the Bible is your God. Pull up the tent stakes.
And so as we begin, that's one of the first things we need to do. Deliberately choose to say, "I'm not settling here." Onward. Upward. Forever march.