Sunday afternoon, I rolled up to my house with a duffel bag full of damp, filthy laundry, some awesome tan lines, and the sweet peace of Christ. These past 11 weeks have been some of the hardest, but formative and cleansing weeks of my life. I can’t sum all the lessons, crazy stories, and explanations up in one post, so if you’re interested in hearing more about what God did in and through me (because trust me, it was a lot) this summer, please ask. We can go get something yummy to drink and I’ll tell you some cool stuff. If you’re too nervous to do that for some reason, or if you live far away and buying a plane ticket to get chai with me isn’t realistic, I’ll try to share a few tidbits now to give you an idea of what it was like.
I was always tired. Our workday as camp counselors essentially started at 6am for morning lap swims in the lake, and ended at 10pm (if we were lucky), after cabin devos and late-night debriefs of the day on the porch with our co-counselor, wrapped in blankets and swatting away mosquitos. Add constant screaming during meals, event hours where we went from standing to a full sprint dozens of times in an hour, and the occasional lost swimmer drill, and you’ve got a pretty accurate guess of my energy level by the end of each week. I prayed hourly for God to give me what I need to get through the day, and you know what? He always did. (One time, the weather was cold and wet and the last thing I wanted to do was teach sailing. I prayed for deliverance (or strength) right before class started, and at the last minute, a rudder mysteriously went missing, so I ended up filing inside a cozy office that afternoon instead of shivering out on the water. He provides, guys.)
I couldn’t hold onto anything. My ideas of what I wanted cabin community to look like for a particular week, my plans of when I would shower or have quiet time, my bitterness towards a situation or people, the giant blue bins of food when I tried to help transport them from the boat to the lodge one time, my emotional stability, my pride, etc., etc. To even begin to let the Lord in and let Him carry out His will for a particular moment, day, or week, I had to release my hold on everything else first. That meant daily choices to die to my own wants and put not just the needs of others first, but His priorities above all. And He knew better than me 10 times out of 10. Sometimes I would try to put structures around myself to keep my actions, thoughts, or intentions steady by sheer force of will, and He would always step over my walls and direct me another way, or plant me in a situation where I couldn’t grasp for control. It was humbling and absolutely necessary.
I got to see Christ’s heart for His children. Being in a place that desires so fully to serve and love young women by training them in righteousness was so special. Those campers were pursued and taken care of so selflessly, in ways that often went unseen, and it was a privilege to be a part of that kingdom work. I would realize on the first night of every week, as the gospel was being shared at sunset, Wow God, you want these girls so deeply. It made me want them to be His so deeply, too. It also made me realize how much He desired closeness with me. I’m also His child, and I felt like a kid on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, watching Him get a hold of the hearts of girls all summer.
I was shown immense grace. Every time I expected God to put me in a challenging situation (pairing me with a co-counselor that I wouldn’t communicate well with, giving me a more exhausting teaching schedule that week, not removing me from temptation, etc.) He would bless me in ways I just straight up didn’t deserve. Every single one of my co-counselors were people I’d made direct and specific friendships with, and I cherished every moment I got to lead with them. The day after I returned from my weekend at home, I got to drive a hike group and spend an afternoon writing letters and napping in a field (the day after I got back from time off! I hadn’t earned that rest at all!). So many of the staff taught me about mercy and grace by taking extra moments to bless me or sacrifice for me- just because they loved me. I saw the grace of Jesus manifested so clearly through them. It was a safe place.
Cleanliness was a relative term. I had a full shower once, maybe twice a week, and would give clothes a passing sniff to decide if I could get one more day out of them. It’s a basic fact of wilderness living that you’re going to get grimy, which I was prepared for. What I didn’t expect was the perspective it would give me on beauty. I began to see people at their most beautiful when covered in dirt, soaking wet, or crossing the field in a certain hat or pair of rain boots. I began to see myself as more beautiful in the wildest of circumstances, and lost a lot of sensitivity about what I might look like in certain scenarios. Having such a rigorous, focused job to do took my eyes off myself a lot- but more on that later.
I gained some awesome female friends. I’ve been longing and praying to meet women like these. I laughed so hard I actually wet my pants once, and had countless moments of euphoric happiness and sweet fellowship with this staff. They are all so different, but we come together over our desire to know and serve Christ. All my fears about not being able to connect with a bunch of ‘camp girls’ were totally demolished when I met them and heard their stories. They are vibrant, dynamic, smart, rugged, fierce, unpredictable, loving women and I am proud to call so many my friends.
I stopped putting myself at the center of the universe so dang much. When even your bathroom schedule falls to the wayside in service of supervising 8 girls, you learn to stop caring so much about yourself. There are some things that just don’t matter in the grand scheme. There was a moment about two thirds of the way through the summer that I realized I had hardly given thought about my problems from months prior even once. Being removed from the noise and excess of normal life quieted my heart and mind, and once I was listening, God had all kinds of things to say to me. I know what He sounds like a lot better now. I’m ready to get lost in His love more and my fears less in the coming year.
There’s obviously so much more to tell (the boat crew skits! the amount of times I painted my face! wearing a captain’s hat every Sunday! the diner where I wrote all my letters on days off! the morning we woke up to pouring rain outside our tent and realized our packs were open! chucking rocks off a mountain and almost crying every time!), but suffice it to say that God did a lot of work in me this summer, and even though I was totally unworthy, He did a lot of work through me too. This year will be better for it.
See you soon, Gordon.