August 9, 2014
I fully intended to write each week about camp and what I was learning here in Texas. It’s a shame that I haven’t, because God has been teaching me more than I have the ability to fully process in the moment. So I apologize if this post chases three different rabbit trails. Maybe one day I’ll catch up in writing, though we all know what “one day” really means.
I have been so blessed this summer with the opportunity to lead worship for the Girls Club every Tuesday night at camp. Never really knowing what to sing/read/speak about in that time until right before worship, I often find myself reading through my personal journal and simply offering encouragement based on whatever God is showing me that week.
A few weeks ago I was flipping through my journal seeking inspiration before club and I became aware that I was slowly starting to get really anxious about the friendships I was developing at camp. I am surrounded by some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met and as I’ve worked and served alongside them, they have become like family to me. The more we got to know one another and the more intimate our friendships became, the more I started to feel uncomfortable with them. I realized that week that I was starting to push them out because they knew me too well and I was forming a dependency on them that I didn’t want to have.
That day I had recorded two quotes in my journal. One was 1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
The other was a quote from the book, Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge.
“Fear makes us retreat. Love causes us to advance.”
Talk about a recipe for conviction in my heart. It was fear that was causing me to rebuild the walls that the people here have worked so hard to tear down. It is fear that causes me to hold people at a safe distance and makes me recoil when people joke too much about marriage. For someone who values bravery in every other aspect of life, I am a coward when it comes to love. And this summer is revealing to me that my fear doesn’t just affect me. It hurts the people God places in my life. People God provides for me to love on as He so often calls us to do in His Word.
One of the songs we sang that night was Hosannah, which has a line in the bridge that says “Show me how to love as You have loved me”. In that moment, on stage, God showed me something new about His call to love.
I asked the girls to consider what fears cause them to retreat from loving others fully. Is it fear of rejection? Abandonment? Loss? Not being loved back? Whatever that thing is, it ultimately leads to personal suffering, which humans are not usually quick to pursue, despite many of God’s greatest blessings resulting from it.
I then read a passage from 1 John 4.
“10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
We sang that we wanted to love as God loves us, and here in this passage, we see that God loved us by sending His Son to pay the penalty for our sin. He loved us by suffering. So not only is there a RISK of suffering when we love, but if we are truly to love as we are called to, we are guaranteed it.
The girls in front of me didn’t know it, but I was spilling my guts to them in that moment.
I came to Pine Cove with several goals, but didn’t fully realize just how conflicting many of them were. One was to love and invest in the staff. Another was to work on being more vulnerable, a trait I’ve been told I need to develop numerous times by leaders and friends. And yet another was to not become attached to the people here. I have found that goal number one was dependent on accomplishing goal number two, and neither were possible without letting go of the final goal. It’s impossible to fully love without putting yourself at risk for suffering by being vulnerable. And you can’t be vulnerable while guarding yourself from becoming attached.
God blessed me with many loving friends and even bosses to help me learn this lesson.
It’s impossible to hide your heart from people when you work and live in tight proximity with them 24/7 for 13 weeks straight. Unlike at home, you can’t choose to avoid people because you’re unhappy or not feeling social. You wake up to the same alarm, shower on opposite sides of a curtain, work in the same kitchen, eat at the same table, lifeguard at the same pool and even ride in the same car on your 24 hours off each week.
After weeks of fighting frustration about my lack of privacy and freedom to get away, I gave in and embraced the constant community around me. Ever since then God has allowed my heart and mind to be known more deeply by my friends here than by some of my longest running friendships back in Georgia. Surrendering my desire for distance has fulfilled my heart and given me incredible joy this summer as I’ve grown to truly love and be loved by this staff. Love that I’ve never seen before, that not only encourages, but also calls out and challenges me. I understand now why people say marriage is sanctifying – you can’t hide your crap from your spouse. You can’t hide your crap from your camp friends either and the result is all of us looking more like Jesus.
I had my final staff evaluation from my boss yesterday and the change in my heart has been prevalent to those watching me. In my mid-summer eval, I was challenged to be more transparent and vulnerable and put more value in relationships and less in tasks. Since then, they’ve recognized a visible transformation in my joy and in my effectiveness as a leader to those around me.
I’ve felt the blessing of loving fully and freely.
Now I’m starting to feel that suffering that was guaranteed to come with it as staff members start trickling out this week to return to their home states and start the school year. I had a hard time saying goodbye to a few of my closest friends today and I know that next weekend will only be worse. Despite all good intentions of meeting again someday, experience tells me I will probably never see these people again. People who have sought me out every day and worked to get to know my past and my present. People who have opened up to me and allowed me to encourage them in return. It’s going to be incredibly hard to do life without them now that I’ve become so reliant on them. Despite Facebook and phones, it feels like a loss to drive our separate ways, but I know we’ve all gained so much more in the grand scheme of life because of the things we’ve taught each other in our short time together. I’m so glad love proved more powerful than fear this summer and I hope I continue to cast out that fear moving forward. Relationships may be temporary, but they will always be worth it.
I drove to Texas determined not to let anyone in. I didn’t stay true to that promise and right now I’m suffering for it, but a lot of people will be better off for it, myself the foremost.
“Do not give way to fear.” – 1 Peter 3:6
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