Amy Carroll » Growing Spiritually » A Cathedral or a Tent

A Cathedral or a Tent

Last weekend, Barry, my parents, and I visited our oldest son, Anson,  in Cincinnati where he goes to school. It was a wonderful weekend full of the joy of being reunited and the fun of experiencing the pieces of his life.

We went to his concert…

And we toured a fabulous sign museum (who knew there was so much history and so many stories associated with signs?)…

And we visited a beautiful cathedral where Anson played a concert last semester. (No pictures since mass was about to start.)

That visit was actually a surprise, but there was something there that had moved my boy so much that he wanted to share it. Truthfully, I wasn’t too excited about this stop until I went inside. Once there, I understood exactly the awe that he wanted to transmit.

I walked around in the hush craning my neck to see the tops of soaring ceilings, examining the tiny tiles that composed mosaics of exquisite beauty, and soaking in the light shining through dazzling stained glass windows. The space was breathtaking. The stories told all centered on Jesus. The people there were all bent in prayer, and there was an air of expectancy… of wonder… of awe.

In the midst of it all, I was overcome by the weight of the majestic presence of God. My mom even shed a few tears when we got in the car, talking about God’s presence there, and I welled up too. It was a space where He undeniably resided but also where I felt His Kingship acutely. It was a place that inspired worship, and I felt the pleasure of God in that truth. Worship was chiseled into every stone and carved into each altar.

I’ve been thinking about that space ever since, and it’s made me wonder. Have we gotten far too cozy with God? Has our embrace of our friendship with Him made us neglect the reverence of Him? Is God pleased with our jeans-on-Sunday attitudes in a room that’s far more often lit by stage lights than candle light?

Before you jump in with a comment about your preference, please ponder with me for a minute. We need to remember reverence. We need to bring our best to His Highness. We need to make Him center of our worship arts and everything else.

Today, however, as I read in II Samuel 7, I realized that my thoughts had carried me slightly in the wrong direction.

Here’s what God Himself said to David who longed to build God a house that he saw as worthy of Him,

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ (II Samuel 7:5-7)

I grinned a little when I thought of this exchange between David and God, and I cried a little too. It sounds like David might be a recovering perfectionist. His heart was in the right place, and he wanted to do things the right way. Surely, surely he shouldn’t live in a nicer house than God, and he wanted to set things “right”.

But our “right” and God’s true right don’t always match.

Yes, we need to pursue God and long for His presence.

Yes, we need to focus our gifts and their products on Him.

Yes, we need to bring our best to Him in worship.

The way this needs to be done–the specifics of where, when and how–need to be set by Him, though. David thought God needed a temple. God was content and present in the tent.

He doesn’t reside in a place of our prescription. He isn’t summoned by our methods. He isn’t please with what we decide to bring.

He wants us to seek Him and follow Him. That’s it.

He shows up in cathedrals and tents. He comes to us when we’re in suits and when we’re in jeans. His Presence falls when we’re on our knees or stretching with lifted hands.

“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.” (II Samuel 7: 11b)

He has established a house for Himself. It’s us! It’s His indwelling Spirit in the human temple of His children.

The Spirit of God didn’t reside in that cathedral just because it was grand. He was there because I was there. He was there because my mom, and my dad, and my husband, and my son were there. If you’re a believer, He would be there if you were there too!

Rest today, reforming perfectionists. You don’t have to build the temple. You are the temple. He’s with you. You don’t have to work harder or figure out the “right” formula. Let’s bask in the overcoming, weighty Presence of our majestic God.


Note: I’d be negligent today if I didn’t tell you how much I LOVE First 5, Proverbs 31’s Bible study app. That’s the study that sparked all of this in my heart today, so if you haven’t joined, click on the graphic below to find out more.

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  1. I’m in Cincinnati and you have me wondering what church you visited! Would you be willing to share the name?

    Last Sunday we went with our grandchildren to their church, one of the “mega” churches here in town. In contrast, today we attended a funeral service at an old Catholic church in one of Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhoods, Over-The-Rhine. An auditorium vs a church. I felt God’s presence in each.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Absolutely! It was Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption/Basilica Covington. You live in a wonderful city! I tried to talk Barry into buying a loft downtown. 🙂

      1. Of course, should have guessed that. This is also my hometown, like Kelly above, and while the area often gets a bad rap, it’s full of wonderful people with plenty to see and do. Great to hear you might be in the area later this year — please keep us posted!

  2. <3 this! I'm reading through the Bible chronologically and there are a lot of specific instructions for Tent of Meeting. And next time you're going to be in Cincinnati, let me know!! So glad you had a good tour with some of the highlights of my hometown.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      I’m like you. The more I read the Old Testament, the more I love it. Even though some parts are mysterious and hard to understand, it’s so rich.

      We loved Cincinnati! I may be speaking near there in November, and I’d love to meet you if I’m there. It’s not finalized yet, but you can watch my schedule for upcoming events. 🙂

  3. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog/post as well as seeing your videos too. I have mentioned before that my word for the year is “Believe” and I am enjoying reading about how you are learning more scriptures relating to “believe”. One of my favorites is Mark 9:23. ~Lisa~

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Thanks so much for your encouragement, Lisa! It means the world to me to know that we’re sisters on this journey.

  4. Adrienne B Rice says:

    Amen, my sweet friend. Amen. By the way, I’ve been loving the friendship podcasts on Grit N Grace.