There are some who do not understand the appeal of camping. “How is that a vacation?” They want to know. Cooking in primitive conditions, swatting mosquitos, trudging through the elements… “Doesn’t sound like a vacation to me,” they say.
Their logic is hard to argue, but I can’t help it. I love to camp. I love everything about it. I love walking someplace to lug back drinking water. I love the first rays of sun after a cold and rainy night. I love wielding an axe to split wood, and cooking over a fire, and… well, I don’t exactly love washing dishes, but somehow even that seems more fun when I’m doing it under a giant pine tree.
Most of all, I love how camping causes me to appreciate things I normally take for granted. Like clean, dry clothes. Or, as the week wears on, moderately clean and only slightly damp clothes. On that fateful day when I reach into my duffel bag and extract my very last clean t-shirt, I experience something akin to euphoria. If you are not a camper, it may be hard to appreciate the joy of holding something in your hand that actually smells like soap. No other day of the year do I appreciate clean clothes as much as in that moment.
But that is just the beginning. Days later, when dirty clothes have started evolving into their own ecosystem, an even greater miracle occurs. The Laundromat.
The Bible tells us that God’s mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Anyone who ever doubts this needs only to witness the miracle of week old hiking socks emerging fresh and warm from a laundromat dryer. The sight is enough to renew both my soul and my soles. Indeed, nothing puts a spring back into my tattered hiking boots like a pair of fuzzy clean socks. The joys of camping are so… simple.
Unfortunately, most of my days are not as simple as the ones I enjoy while camping in the mountains. Back amongst the “real world” I quickly forget the miracle of a clean t-shirt and fuzzy socks. The “dirty laundry” I accumulate is even more harrowing than a sack full of dirty socks. I get tired and grouchy. I fail to stay in touch with friends. I speak carelessly; I act selfishly. I try, and fail miserably, to follow Christ’s example.
This is why I camp. Because I need those reminders. I need just one clean t-shirt in a bag of increasingly dirty clothes. I need the rejuvenation of my well-worn hiking socks. I need the reminder that God’s simple, everyday mercies should not be taken for granted. And most of all, I need the reminder that no matter how busy and messy and downright stinky my days may be, God’s mercies will be new in the morning.
God is more powerful than any laundry detergent; He can refresh far more than just my dirty laundry. He sent His Son so that even my sins may be washed away. “Purge me with hyssop,” the psalmist cried, “and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
This, truly, is the greatest mercy which God offers to us anew every morning: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Every day, even amidst the crazy, stress-filled ones, God gives us the opportunity to return to Him. To be washed by Him. To be renewed by Him. To be strengthened by Him. It is an open invitation He extends to every one of us, new every morning. A fresh, clean, new life… starting now.
And here I thought a clean t-shirt was cool.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate admissions for Purdue University and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org, and follow her @minimustard.