Last week, on the eve of my leaving, I wrote to you about the spiritual experience of going to camp. Now I've just come back. I feel tired, refreshed, changed, and encouraged all at the same time.
I'm tired because I gave my self to this camp. I tried new things and shared parts of my self (stories, abilities) I have had a hard time sharing elsewhere. My body aches from dodgeball and a slip n' slide at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and my heart is wrung from the compassion it has given and received. I'm feeling the good-tired that any athlete knows from their training exercises.
My refreshment is in my spirit. I gave my self to this camp and these new neighbors in a particular way, built on a foundation of shared trust. I gave my self Christianly, expecting that we were all striving similarly toward the same far-off "Kingdom of God." We shared Christ's Body and Blood daily, and sang together, and heard and responded to God's scripture together. And it seemed to me that it was our time singing and eating together in the chapel (and sweating...it was warm!) that allowed us to bear such intensity of relationship throughout the rest of our days.
With that kind of environment, I'm not surprised to find my self a little changed from who I was five days ago. I find my self more awake to my brokenness, a more sure in my gifts, with brighter desire for my particular ministry, and thirstier for living water.
I'm encouraged because this good change in me did not happen in solitude. It was brought about in community, and my change was witnessed by that community. Like a document witnessed by a J.P., I can trust that this change really happened. It has a living seal of authority borne by all my sisters and brothers there. These good changes to my self are beyond my own power to revoke, even if I wanted to hide from them later. And I'm encouraged because this good change in me was not magical. It came from a choice that I made, and a prayerful set of actions I undertook. It's a repeatable experiment. I could take Eucharist again. I could sing again. I could break open God's Word again. And within this community of Christ they would be just as trustworthy as before to change me for the good.
I know that camp "worked" because I did it, in community. Spiritual practices, prayers, "work" when we give our selves to them; when we do them with intention. And that work is inherently, irrevocably lasting when we do it in community.
In my last letter I wondered how the seeming magic of camp can come home to our weekly and daily experiences the rest of the year. I'm pleased for the reminder that it's not magic. It's care-full community. It's shared prayer and meals and song. It's giving our selves in a common direction. And we can indeed do all those things at home as well as away, if we're willing and desire to be tired, refreshed and changed.
Still smoky from the campfire and sweaty from chapel,