There’s something about camp that shows you things about yourself that you didn’t see before. Maybe it’s the oxygen deprivation as you hike miles uphill to canoe around a little pond, or the dingy lighting in the wet and muddy shower houses. Or maybe the incredible starlight that the city never told you was there. Now, our hope is that this will happen for the kids we take and that it will result in their experiencing God in a new way, but it can apply to us too. In fact there’s something about working with youth that shows you things about yourself.
This has been a very long summer. It hasn’t been an easy one. It was one of those times when the rest of life and ministry battled over which could stress me out more. We in the ministry don’t like to admit that there are those times. We tend to wax heroic about things. Well you know, we don’t want God to be embarrassed that things aren’t going exactly how we would want them to. Isn’t that good of us? But the fact is that I have been learning a lot about myself in all of the messiness. Of course, throughout the summer I didn’t feel like I was learning anything except what burn-out feels like, but as I’m gaining a little perspective (albeit only a week of perspective) I’m seeing a little sense in all the madness.
I’ve learned some about my limitations and how important it is to be healthy if your job requires you to constantly pour into others (which is any of us who claim to be Christians). Kids just test your patience plain and simple. And they are so easy to invest your hopes into. Sometimes that is a bad combination because when there’s a rescinding of previous progress made it can feel personal. It’s not of course and that’s something I’m working on.
I came into last week’s camp tired and barely limping along, with my hope being in the moment the last kid was returned to their parents and the summer program was over for me. Needless to say I wasn’t as engaged as I should’ve been and I didn’t have much patience. But another thing I’m learning is that I’m not the lynchpin to all of God’s plans. I don’t personally have to right all the wrongs of the world. Granted I still want to, but it’s impossible, not to mention heretical, to think that the world’s order rests on my highly intelligent reasoning.
There were moments last week when I had to look at a child I wanted to lose it on and repeat this internal mantra/prayer “This is a child of God. This is a child of God.” And it was in those moments I especially realized that ministry left up to me sucks. I’m no good at it. And in the end my worth is directly proportional to what I hand over to God.
And so, I think my biggest lesson this summer is that if I’m not a woman of prayer, I’m worth nothing in God’s plan. Prayer is one of those mysteries of the faith for me. Somehow everything in the world is as God wills it to be, yet He has given us this option for participation in His plan that can actually produce results that wouldn’t otherwise occur if we hadn’t prayed. Is that mind-boggling to anyone else? James tells us that the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. First and foremost I need to work on being that righteous man, or woman in my case. I’ve felt so far from that this summer. And secondly, I need to be praying! Because I want to accomplish much and this summer made it very obvious to me that I cannot do that on my own.
Camp was a beloved experience for our kids and a tolerated one for me, but one that God was definitely at work in. One of our youngest girls made the decision to follow Christ, and while I’m not sure she actually fully understands, it was another step in her ever evolving awareness of faith. And for me, maybe the dingy light of the muddy shower house lends something of an unnatural clarity because I feel as if I see myself a little clearer and understand with a little more maturity (I hope) my tiny little significant part in God’s plan. So for now, as I sit here with some of the wear of the summer still weighing on me, I’m going to take a deep breath and pray.