For me campsites are synonymous with mud. We have camped once as a family, foolishly heading to West Wales in 1987 where it rained for six out of seven days. When we arrived there was one waterfall cascading down from the nearby mountain. When we left there were four. Leaving was a miracle in itself given that we were camping in a farmer’s muddy field and it was still raining. I promised myself I would never go camping again.
It was with some trepidation that I found myself helping to erect another tent in another farmer’s field some twenty-five years later. The occasion this time was not a family holiday, but a weekend event for men arranged by Christian Vision for Men (CVM). I spent some time wrestling with the thought of attending this event. I wanted to go and be part of a group of men from my church. But I did not fancy the thought of camping, the likely lack of facilities, or the potential for mud.
The mud was the greatest challenge. As the weekend progressed and more and more rain fell, 800 pairs of feet ensured that the most frequented areas became muddier and muddier. But a strange thing happened. As the mud increased in depth and area, it seemed that the willingness of those present to be surrendered to God also increased. This was particularly evident in our times of worship. On the Saturday evening some men made a first-time commitment to God. Others released issues in their lives, and renewed their relationship with God.
After communion towards the end of the final session Carl Beech, Head of CVM, shared a vision with those present of kneeling before God on the muddy floor of the tent where the meetings were held. “It’s only a bit of mud, innit?” said Carl. Then He came down from the stage and knelt in the mud with men of all ages. And we bowed before the God who sent His Son into a dirty muddy world to wrestle with our sin, taking it with Him, nailed to the cross of Calvary.
Was kneeling in the mud a greater challenge than the mud itself? I wonder what thoughts flashed through 800 minds when presented with Carl’s vision? I remember being relieved that I was wearing my oldest pair of jeans. But that is the only way we can come to God. We have to accept that we are not clean. We come in our dirty rags. Covered in mud. If we accept the challenge, kneel in the mud and cry out to Jesus, He is there, and instantly we are clean, and He is the one with muddy knees and hands.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)
Many thanks to Gareth Davis for allowing me to use his photograph of a cross overlooking the muddy area linking the worship tent with the mess tent.