June 18, 2009

The Mystery of Camp

I was working on my sermon for Sunday, when the idea came to me to include a story from my childhood which I think will help illustrate my topic.

I was in grade school at the time. The story involves a time when my family drove up to Santa Maria to visit some relatives that had just moved there. After driving for about three hours, we saw the sign that said "Santa Maria, next eight exits." It was at that point that my parents realized that the piece of paper that had the directions, map, and phone number to my relatives' new home was still on our refrigerator door, where my parents had posted it so that they wouldn't forget it.

Without any of this contact information, my parents didn't know what to do. However, I had noticed the map as I took out some milk to pour over my Cheerios. The map was still in my mind as we entered Santa Maria. I told my parents where to go, and we arrived at my relatives' house without getting lost.

If only I could remember things like people's names, which would be really helpful for me as a pastor.

But that's just the way my mind works. Sometimes I wonder if I have a mild form of Asperger's. I'm currently reading a book by Daniel Tammet, a man with Asperger's. It's the second book of his that I've read. In his first book, he wrote about how he "sees" numbers in color, and how sometimes different numbers have their own personality. I remember thinking, "Well, doesn't everyone see numbers in color?"

I asked my wife if she saw numbers in color, and she looked at me funny and said, "What are you talking about?" That was my introduction to synesthesia.

Anyway, last Sunday evening I attended a meeting of some of the counselors who I'll be working with when I counsel a week of church camp, which takes place a few weeks from now. I love church camp, but I hate these types of meetings, because meeting new people is always difficult for me. Plus, there's a certain informal craziness to camp, but a meeting isn't quite camp; it's a gathering of church folks who are preparing for camp. This leaves me wondering what the proper behavior and attitude is: the fun informality of camp, or a somewhat more reserved manner appropriate to church gatherings?

I came home from the meeting feeling exhausted. I'm also an introvert, and a morning of church, followed by an evening among people I didn't know, wiped me out.

I don't really understand why I feel called to counsel camp. I also don't understand how it doesn't wear me out the way gatherings of people usually do. I actually become more energized at camp. I suspect that people who meet me might wonder how I could possibly have enough enthusiasm to counsel kids at camp, but the truth is, as part of a camp staff, I thrive. No doubt, there's some sort of mystery to it.

At the end of the meeting, things felt awkward. I'm sure it was just me. Fortunately, I have the experience to know that at camp, that awkwardness will somehow disappear. All the weeks of camp counseling and directing that I've done add up to 52 weeks of my life. That's one full year of my life, spent counseling kids at camp. So I know that the awkwardness will disappear. I know that camp will be great. I know that young people will have their lives changed by the power of the Spirit, as we live, work, study, and play together at church camp.

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