We All Need Tent Kickers

Erica Wiggenhorn
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Our fear of inadequacy tempts us to hide. We only want to put our best foot forward, sharing our Instagram-worthy lives. We don’t want to invite others into our messes or admit that we can’t handle them on our own. Help equals incompetence because we focus on our feelings instead of the facts. There are some things in life just too big to handle on our own.

A tired old adage claims that God won’t give us more than we can handle. Guess what? That’s not in the Bible or is anything like it. Nowhere does the Bible teach that God won’t give us more than we can handle. Some things in life are too big to handle. Sometimes we need God’s grace and good friends to get us through.

A Good Friend for Moses

After months of confronting Pharaoh, accusations from the Israelites about Moses mounted. They claimed that Moses actually intended to kill them rather than deliver them. There were complaints over the lack of water, disappointments over the desert dining experience, and a surprise attack from the Amalekites. Moses needed a three-day nap. And he needed a good friend. God in His great mercy sends him one. Jethro, his father-in- law, comes and brings Moses’ wife and sons along with him. We’ve learned about the good advice Jethro gave Moses about delegation. Moses also had another powerful breakthrough during Jethro’s visit.

First comes the expected greeting ritual. “Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent” (Ex. 18:7). Then Moses completely unloads onto Jethro the good, the bad, and the ugly. “Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way and how the Lord had delivered them” (v. 8). Twice.

Scripture says Moses told Jethro all that had happened—all the good and all the bad.

Notice carefully how Moses words this report: “. . . all that the Lord had done . . . and how the Lord had delivered them.” We see Moses emphasizing all that God had done on behalf of His people. Moses clearly realizes it wasn’t his endless striving, skills, or abilities, or his adequacy as the chosen leader who brought about these marvels. God did it all. Moses demonstrates great humility here, but he also does something else. While relaying God’s wonders on Israel’s behalf, he recounts the facts: this journey had been full of hardship. Moses focused on the facts. He did not downplay the difficulty the deliverance had demanded of him.

As believers we tend to discount our difficulty. We feel guilty citing our hardships instead of simply being grateful for all God gives us. And truthfully, there are times we can get hyper-focused on hardship. But when we feel like we need to stuff our emotions and cannot ask for help, this shouts shame. Asking for help requires a different type of strength: vulnerability. We believe the lie that we are unworthy to wrestle with disappointment or doubt when things get hard. We think if we are vulnerable with our feelings, others will shake their heads in disapproval. We somehow feel like we are “less than” to admit that at times deliverance demands more than we can deliver and we need help. That doesn’t make us ungrateful, it makes us human.

The Bible implies that Jethro came to Moses of his own volition. Moses did not ask him to come. But God knew Moses needed help and sent Jethro at the perfect time. (I’m sure a little time with his wife served Moses well also, but this isn’t a marriage book!) And when they arrived, Moses unloaded and invited Jethro into his tent, where he let down his guard and recounted the journey. Without any need for filters—just raw facts and feelings. This has been hard.

Find a Tent Kicker

So much beauty exists in this relationship between Moses and Jethro that we should seek to emulate and attain. We all need people in our lives with whom we can “kick it in our tent”—that is, our own tent kickers. They get us. They know us; the plus, the minus, the whole deal. This is not the person with whom you are real when you are wearing your leader hat. This is not the person with whom you are real when you are wearing your church or ministry hat. This is not even the person with whom you are real when you are wearing your wife, mom, or career hat. This is the person who knows you and gets you when your head is uncovered and you are having your very best hair day or your absolute worst one.

For those of us who are married, our spouse should be one of those people. But truthfully, even after twentysomething years, there are still some female things about me that my husband just does not get, which he will readily admit to you. (Like why I want hair extensions for my birthday, for instance. Or why I need jeans in both light and dark denim. And also why I cannot make a decision, even if my life depended on it, without talking about it out loud for at least fifty-five minutes. Can you relate?) I need godly women who are tent kickers with me, just like my husband needs godly men.

One of the truest tests of a godly tent kicker is that they can delight in your miracles. Jethro rejoiced with Moses over all the good things God had done. When God blesses you with an unexpected gift or opens up the door for an incredible call upon your life, they are delighted for you. They rejoice with you and for you. Your victory is their joy. Jethro made it a point to come and rejoice with Moses, and we do not find a shred of jealousy between them.

These kinds of friendships do not happen overnight. They do not happen because you both like Mexican food—although no one would argue about the bonding power of tacos—or your kids go to school together. These kinds of friendships require work, faithfully exercised over time. For those of us who are married, we understand this completely when it comes to our spouse. But why do we think “happily ever afters” and deep and lasting friendships ought to naturally just evolve if they are meant to be? Marriages fail when not invested in regularly and so do friendships. We have to intentionally build them.

The Value of Having a Tent Kicker

Moses worked for Jethro for forty years. They shared a long history, with deep grooves of trust carved. For many of us, we deeply desire these types of friendships with others, but we do not want to intentionally carve out the time to build them. If we are truly committed to growing in godliness, tent kickers are indispensable.

You know why? Because if there is nobody out there who knows the real you, then there is nobody out there holding you accountable. Or speaking facts over your oftentimes all-encompassing feelings. Not really, anyway. Sure, maybe for a few external behaviors that you are trying to get a handle on, but not with issues of the heart, or your deep fear of not being enough.

Tent kickers know what’s really going on inside of you, and they aren’t afraid to call you out on it. And you can trust what they are saying is born out of love and your best interest because of their track record.

These tent kickers become powerful partners who can see things we can’t, offer fresh perspectives, and transform us with truth. Moses had no idea that he had another forty years to go as Desert Director, and without Jethro calling him out on trying to fulfill all the responsibilities alone, I’m not sure Moses could have endured. It certainly would’ve been beyond what was humanly possible.

If you are hanging out in your tent with no earthly companions, take heart. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The word translated “dwelt” implies that Jesus “tabernacled” or resided in a tent among His people. Do you get it? Jesus, the God- man, the eternal, self-existent one, clothed Himself in human flesh and came to earth. Why? So He could become your tent kicker!

I don’t care if you feel like you haven’t got a friend in the world, you’ve got a tent kicker and His name is Jesus! He is the most important tent kicker you and I will ever have. He does not want us dwelling in our tents alone with Him all the time though: He wants us to invite some others to join our private party of two.

Notice the results of Moses sharing everything with Jethro. “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods” (Ex. 18:11). That is what happens when we finally stoop down from our “I can do this all by myself ” pedestals and get honest and real: God becomes exalted. We finally learn to make less of ourselves and much of Him. When we allow people into our lives who can see our imperfections and inadequacies and yet see how intimately and passionately our God still loves us, He becomes magnified. His power, faithfulness, and goodness become more visible.

Let’s stop hiding in our tents. We all have messes behind our canvas flaps and you already have got Jesus in there helping you clean it up!

How to Find (and Be) Tent Kickers

How do we begin to build these tent-kicker types of relationships? What are some things to look for in people that would make them worthy of becoming a tent kicker in our lives? This exchange between Moses and Jethro gives us some great starting points.

You can share both your struggles and your victories.

They delight in your miracles and your successes.

They welcome others into your tent during times of celebrating instead of hoarding your presence.

They will confront you when they see something in your life that “is not good.”

They observe and listen, trying to understand your heart before offering their advice.

They give their advice, but then expect you to take it to God before you take action.

They do not get upset when, after seeking God’s direction, you decide on a different strategy. (Not a sinful strategy, but an equally noble pursuit!)

Are we one of these people ourselves? Unless we cease striving to look like we have it all together, can manage our lives alone, and never admit to experiencing lack or limitations, we undoubtedly will forfeit these types of friendships. Once we surrender our inadequacies over to Jesus, inviting Him into our tent first, we become free to allow others into our messy dwelling places. We can stand in the doorway demanding everyone believe we only live Instagram-worthy lives or we can open the flap and let others see the real us. Sometimes the most beautiful friendships are born around the messiest tables. And if tacos are being served, well then, even better.

For Further Reading:

Letting God Be Enough

by Erica Wiggenhorn

Everyone thinks you’ve got it together. But inside, you’re asking, “Am I enough?” No matter how good we look to others,...

book cover for Letting God Be Enough