A tent and a lantern overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Miss.
By Frank Michael McCormack
Jennifer and I went camping last weekend at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Miss. That means we were pitching our tent on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico about 7 weeks away from Jennifer’s due date.
We’re expecting our first baby sometime around December 5.
Camping at Buccaneer State Park has a special place in the story of our pregnancy. Little did we know at the time, but when we camped there in March, Jennifer was newly pregnant. And as we approach time for her to give birth, we wanted to “bookend” the pregnancy with a second trip.
I mentioned the potential trip to a few friends, all of whom gave me looks of disbelief or words of caution. Sleeping in a tent isn’t what you do when you’re pregnant, they said. No one believed me when I said Jennifer wanted to go just as much (or more) than me.
Really, I’m telling the truth. I don’t think anyone believes me even now.
After a little deliberating Saturday morning, we decided to go for it. Zero chance for rain, blue skies, moderate temperature, cool evenings = camping goodness.
(And to be honest, we try to make a habit of disregarding “no, you can’t” comments.)
We arrived at the park around 4 p.m. Saturday and pitched the tent in no time. This time around, we made a few key camping innovations, like securing the tent with heavy duty stakes for stability. The wind blows on the shore, and our lil tent needs all the help it can get to avoid blowing away.
With the tent in place and secured, we picked up a few supplies and headed to the seedy seafood restaurant we discovered last time. I guess it was seedier than we thought, because it had gone out of business. We opted for Mexican.
We returned to camp for dessert. Last time we made smores, but this time we popped popcorn over the camp stove. We’ll go with smores next time.
We crawled into the tent for the night pretty early. Then around 11, I was roused by a feeling no camper wants to experience. Icy darts of rain were hitting me in the face.
I scrambled out of the tent and put the rain cover on just in time for the rain to stop. The wind was still blowing as it always does there, and the rain flap wasn’t helping the tent’s aerodynamics, so I decided to stuff it back in the car.
I dozed for awhile, then the wind picked up and the rain returned. And this time, it was heavier. I consulted Weather.com while Jennifer and I threw our weight against the sea-side of the tent as we struggled to prevent the tent from collapsing. On the radar, I saw a rain squall coming off the Gulf, moving to the northwest right over us. Fortunately, the rain was coming in more-or-less sideways, so we were able to zip up the sea-side window and block most of the rain.
In about 20 minutes, the storm passed, the rain stopped, and the wind kept blowing. I guess you can’t have everything. We settled back down for sleep.
In no time, Jennifer was asleep again, but I laid there wide awake. I was really worried that our tent wouldn’t be able to withstand the wind the whole night. So there I was wide awake, whispering to myself “peace, be still” and praying that God would calm the winds much like Jesus did on the Sea of Galilee.
If you’re not familiar with the story, Mark 4:35-41 tells of when Jesus and his disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. As they crossed, Jesus slept soundly in the stern while the disciples captained the boat. During the night, a storm blew in and brought with it some rough seas. Mark 4 says, “the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” The disciples woke Jesus, saying, “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Jesus got up, rebuked the storm, and said, “Silence! Be still!” The wind died down and the lake returned to calm. He asked the disciples, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”
Most times when I think of this story, I focus on the “peace, be still” part where Jesus speaks and the wind calms. It’s a demonstration of Jesus power and authority over the elements and a testament to his divinity.
But like all good stories, the story of Jesus calming the storm has another side, and that other side of the story is captured in his question, “Do you still have no faith?” In a very real sense, the storm was a test of the disciples’ faith. I wonder what would have happened if they would have had faith and not cried out to Jesus for help. Would the boat have held up through the storm, with Jesus commending them for their faith? There’s no way to know. As it is, the disciples actually kind of blame Jesus for the tense situation (“Don’t you care…?”).
That got me to thinking of the times I’ve responded to adversity in my life with that same kind of blaming, faithless outburst directed toward Jesus. “Don’t you care?” or “Can’t you see?” or “Why this and why now?” And if I’m honest, more often than not Jesus puts out the fire or calms the winds, spares me from serious consequences, then turns and asks “Do you still have no faith?”
And yes, I was thinking over this as I laid there on an air mattress on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in a tent shuddering in the wind last Saturday night.
After thinking through that, falling asleep in the wind-blown tent wasn’t so hard after all. Oh, and it took the edge off having a baby too.
That is, until we went to that birthing class the following Monday.