I’m not sure about you, but I loved apologetics as a young kid. And, more often than not, I found myself debating other teenage kids “living on the edge” at youth group or summer camp.
Once particular summer I was debating the merits of Christianity with another camper. And they presented an argument that really stumped me.
In an effort to discredit Christianity - he told me that most of Martin Luther’s theolgocal revelation, ideas, and even visions came to him while he was in the outhouse.
At the time I had no idea how to refute this. I was shocked.
How could something holy or important happen…in the bathroom? I had always thought of the great spiritual Fathers finding God at a beautiful desk in a tower or in front of a large stained glass window, in a meadow or on a mountain top. How could I commit myself to a spiritual pathway shared with someone who found God in the bathroom? Could his visions and revelations even be legitimate?
10 years later, while studying Christian History, I learned that Martin Luther had four children who survived infancy. And, after I had children, I came to the conclusion that the most likely explanation for the fact that Martin was often inspired in the lavatory was that he was probably hiding from his children and the chaos!
As any parent knows, the outhouse most likely provided a quiet moment. He could be alone where no one was touching him or asking him questions. It provided a chance to be quiet and still and commune with God. In my life as a young Mom, some of my most significant spiritual moments have come in the bathroom, shower, or while doing laundry.
Maybe Luther was on to something.
Recently, I have been reflecting on the word mishkan. It is a Hebrew word found throughout the Old Testament. If you have read the Pentateuch, you have read mishkan. It is the word for Tabernacle.
Once the Israelites had made their exodus from Egypt, God gave them instructions for establishing their new life with him - The Law. One of the parts of the Law outlines a beautiful, elaborate, and portable tent called the Tabernacle. It was the earthly dwelling place of Yahweh at the centre of the camp.
This wasn’t any old required tent or temple. It was an act of intimacy on God’s part.
In Eden God had walked with Adam and Eve, interacted with them, spoke with them, and was near to them. The Tabernacle demonstrated that through Israel God was going to restore the union between God and humankind.
It was God’s extended hand of covenant and relationship. A tangible, ever present reminder to the Israelites that they could rest in his presence and Yahweh had drawn near to them.
In John 1:14 we see the word Tabernacle again. John writes about Jesus, “And The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the one and only Father, full of grace and truth.”
The word John used for dwell is the Greek word for Tabernacle. Jesus tabernacled among his people. Yahweh came to rest and dwell and seek relationship and intimacy with his people in a new way.
The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus made way for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And by the Holy Spirit, we, my friends, have become tabernacles. The Holy Presence of God lives within each of us who have chosen to follow Jesus.
So, for all the other days and weeks and months of the year when we are living life, making meals, caring for sick children, doing laundry, driving and paying bills - God is tabernacling with us. These are moments of sacredness and intimacy, though less shiny or impressive. These are moments of tabernacle.
Being a Mom finds me in all sorts of unromantic moments. Moments of hiding in the bathroom, holding someone’s hair back as they vomit, changing beds that have been wet, wiping noses, changing diapers, wiping coffee grinds and moldy bit of food out of garbage cans. Moments that feel mundane and gritty. But what does it mean for me to tabernacle with God in those moments? This reality of Jesus’ work changes and shapes every moment, not just the impressive mountain top or picturesque ones.
What does it mean for me to allow the truth of God’s presence into my every day life?
I think it means that I cannot close myself off to say that God only speaks in these circumstances or that I need to be in a special place for God to be present with me.
He is present with me all the time, in any moment. He is with me always.
The more I reflect and ruminate on the concept of Tabernacle, the more I have found moments of revelation, prayer, and intimacy with God in the most unlikely of places.
As Advent approaches, I am finding myself thinking about the divine presence of God tabernacling with Mary and Joseph. The shekinah glory of God in a tiny baby - resting, dwelling and pitching his divine tent in the most human of circumstances.
It is almost too much to think about. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
I want to say to the baby, “Oh Jesus, you don’t need to come here. There are nicer places. There are prettier spots. Your beauty can’t be here too.” I want to save Jesus from the messiness of humanity. As if he did not already know about it. As if it is some secret that we have kept.
And yet, if I can face the raw humanity of the Christmas story, I find such comfort about what happened there, in that cave in Bethlehem. Comfort that God is able to enter into, teach me, change me, be present with me anywhere that I am.
Even in the bathroom.
As Advent approaches, it has been pressed upon me to ask God to open my eyes to these moments, to open my ears to hear him in the chaos, to open my heart to know the presence of Jesus as I care for my kids and not wait for a picturesque moment to meet with him.
Will you ask him with me?
May you be made more aware of the presence of God tabernacling in in your home. In your bedraggled living room and the pile of unclean dishes. May you know the holiness and sacredness of everyday moment because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And may you find comfort and joy to know that the Spirit of the Most High God is present with you amidst spilled milk and stains on your clothes, amidst anxiety and depression, amidst grief, amidst both the joys and triumphs, failures and sadness. He is there for it all because he is pleased to dwell with us.
And may you behold the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.