A Loving Arm
by Joy Martin, Co-founder Set Me Free Ministries
Today my little family of four returned home from a weekend camping trip. Zach grew up in a family who loved to camp. In fact, his parents still enjoy camping, and our kids are fortunate enough to be able to spend several weekends a year with Grandma and Papa Martin in their camper at one of many campgrounds in our area. Luckily, both Justice and Julie are campers at heart and love to be outside, just enjoying nature.
It could have just as easily gone another way, considering their genetic pool. You see, I do not come from a family of campers–not even close. My dad has often joked that our family's idea of "roughing it" meant staying at a Holiday Inn without an indoor pool. That's not far from the truth. However, in my years with Zach, I have grown to enjoy camping, although I think I've determined that I have about a three-night maximum tolerance for tent camping at this point in time.
I think the thing I love most about camping is being out in the splendor of God's creation without the distractions of everyday life. There's no school, no work, no TV, no video games, no Internet, and no telephone. (Yes, I realize that in today's technology-heavy world, many of these things can be at your fingertips even on a camping trip. But when the Martins camp, we leave those things behind.) So for 48 glorious hours, it was just my family, nature, and me. Zach cooked our meals over the campfire, the kids played with new friends at the nearby park, and I took in our surroundings and watched my family soak in the joy that camping brings them.
Needless to say, a mid-October camping trip in Nebraska is risky. I can remember more than a few Octobers when we already had snow on the ground. This year, however, we've had an incredibly beautiful fall, and we were lucky to have amazing weather for our weekend away. And although the sun shone brightly during the day, warming the air to the perfect temperature, the night brought with it cooler temps than made it necessary to bundle up before crawling into bed.
When discussing sleeping arrangements, Zach and I decided that Julie and I should share the larger air mattress, while he and Justice each took their own. We figured she would sleep better with me nearby, and I'd be able to make sure she stayed warm enough throughout the night. Surprisingly, she was ready to head to bed pretty early each night. Not so surprisingly, she insisted I go into the tent with her when she was ready to go to sleep.
As we rested our heads on our pillows to settle down for the night, she turned to me and said, "Mommy? Will you put your arm around me?"
Her words made my heart melt. I complied with her request, wrapping my arm around her and pulling her close to me. Soon, she drifted off to sleep, and I was able to just listen to her soft snoring. Throughout the night, we both rolled around and repositioned ourselves more than a few times. But then, in the still of night, I would hear her sweet voice yet again. "Mommy, I'm cold. Will you put your arm around me?" And, of course, I would comply once again.
As soon as she was snuggled back up against me, I asked her, "Is that better? Are you warm now?"
She simply whispered, "yes," before quickly dozing back to sleep.
The temperature dropped well below fifty degrees both nights of our camping trip. And although we have the Cadillac of tents, it's a tent nonetheless. It does a great job of keeping out the wind and does a better job of insulating against the cold than a lot of other tents, but even still, it was quite cold when night fell. Even I was cold, and I love sleeping in the chilly weather. I suspect that if she'd been alone on an air mattress, even curled up in a sleeping bag, she wouldn't have slept well. In order to feel safe and secure and warm, she needed her mommy's arm wrapped around her.
I think we're often like that with our heavenly Father, even if we don't realize it. And that's okay. Sometimes we just need a warm snuggle from our Father God to keep out the cold of the world and reassure us that we're safe and cared for. Just as I heard Julie calling for me, God hears when we call for Him.
Psalm 116:1-2 puts it beautifully:
"I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live."
It is my prayer that you, too, would remember to call upon the Lord as long as you live.