What I Learned: Summer Camp 2018

Summer Camp is over. 

It’s Labor Day weekend, and I’m lying in my bed trying to recall the lessons I learned this summer. I’m sure they’re there. I remember one about Hebrews 12 and the great cloud of witnesses and how grateful I am for my community of friends. 

Summer Camp 2018

Summer Camp 2018

But the rest of them? It’s all kind of a blur, really –  the kids, their blue camp shirts, the laughter, the tough conversations, the broken bones, the popsicles, the cooking clubs, the teachers, the interns, the parents, the field trips, the heat, and the sun.

It’s all a great big blob – a mass of gratitude in my heart, and I suppose I’ll keep it that way instead of trying to pick it apart and make it into something it doesn’t want to be.

One thing, however, has become incredibly clear. In the quieter weeks since kids camp ended, I’ve become aware of the fact that I am not the same as I was when kids camp started.

The beautiful thing about leading is that the people and the places you lead have the ability to lead and teach you even as you lead and teach them. I always hope our campers will experience some kind of growth when they go through Soul City Kids Camp. But the thing I always forget to expect is the way a deep dive into leading littles will change me.

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you’ve heard me talk about Grace Encounter – a multi-weekend retreat I went on in 2010 that completely undid me, then put me back together again.

The leaders at Grace Encounter referred to each retreat weekend as a journey. Journey 1. Journey 2. Journey 3. Journey 4.

At the end of Journey 4, one of the leaders addressed our group saying, “Now you’re ready for journey five…and six and seven and so on. The journey doesn’t stop when the retreat ends. It keeps going. Each circumstance you encounter is another journey that can lead you into growth if you let it.”

That’s a terrifying, yet empowering way to look at life – a big box of journeys meant to teach us things and help us grow.

Right now, I feel a bit like Ariel, from the Little Mermaid, when she first gets her legs. She stands up next to Scuttle, Flounder, and Sebastian, wobbles for a second, and then falls right back down into the water. 

I feel this way for two reasons. First, because I’ve run what feels like a 2.5 year relay race in which kids camp was the final leg. I held the baton for a long time, unable to pass it off because no one was there to take it. The second reason it feels difficult to stand is that running the race changed me, and change can be difficult to step into, even if it’s good.

I finally got to give up the baton, and I’m catching my breath, realizing I’d much rather keep moving so as to avoid the pain and injuries I’ve incurred through the race, but that’s what the old Rachel would do.

I’d much rather live in confusion, complaining about the unknowns of what’s next instead of embracing the clarity I’ve received and trusting God with the rest.

Our old ways of being are comfortable, even if they’re not healthy. They’re easy and they’re familiar.

Someone once told me that if you’re going to make changes in your life you better do it sooner rather than later. I was 25 when she told me this, and I scoffed at the notion. Now, I’m 31 and somehow, that age number has made me more aware of just how difficult change can be and that this woman was right!

I’m suddenly aware of lost time – time spent being held back by believing the worst instead of moving forward in believing the best – while also being keenly aware that my time is much more limited than I ever thought it was.

Another woman, much older than me, brought clarity to these feelings a few months back. She said “in your 30’s, you’re much more aware of your mortality.”

Her sentence hit me in the face like a ton of bricks because it’s true. In your 20’s, you’re a bit unaware of how little time you truly have. You dream and you think and you have a lot of fun. You make strides on some of those dreams, but the rest of them…they’ll happen soon enough. 

But in your 30’s, you realize the “soon enough” is right now, and right now you either don’t have time to do all those things you thought of in your 20’s and you may not even want to do some of those things any more. {Insert Ariel’s shaky leg syndrome.}

Is being okay with where you’re at, settling? Or is it just contentment? Is letting go of old dreams a betrayal of your identity? Or is it just change?

Hopefully, by the time you’re 30, you’ve learned that life is neither good nor bad; it’s both, so you can hold all the tricky feelings that come with losing old dreams and embracing new ones (even if those new ones go against everything you ever said you wanted). 

Being in your 30’s means knowing more of who you are and what you want while also having the experience to know when it’s time to make productive choices and when it’s time to let something go. It means knowing that disappointment doesn’t mean the end of the road. It just means a new way forward.  Being 30 means more confidence and comfort in your imperfection. It also means more heavy and more sad, but having the ability to handle that heavy and sad with new strength and new tenderness.

Some of you reading this are older than me and have the wisdom and the joy of knowing a 4th, 5th, even 6th, 7th, and 8th decade of living. Others of you are in your 20s and might be freaking out about what I just said. What do you mean I won’t have time to accomplish all my dreams?!?! I bet I can if I hurry!

And to that I’ll say – just keep going! Keep doing what you’re doing, and if a time comes when you just don’t want to hurry anymore, know that it’s okay. You’re allowed to slow down. You’re allowed to let go. You’re allowed to be disappointed and to change and then finally embrace all the things that are new.

Here’s to the end of another camp season and settling into the peace of all things new – even if those new things are unknown.

Photo by Soul City Church - Kids Camp 2018

Photo by Soul City Church - Kids Camp 2018

Rachel ClairComment