My first year as a camp counselor, I wanted to make the best impression possible. I looked up to my counselors during my time as a camper, so I wanted to be that kind of force for the younger ones following behind me.
I wanted to leave a mark, an impression on their souls. And during the first week of camp, I was certain that there would be more marks that they’d remember me by, that came by the way of splinters and thorns.
It had been seven long years since I had been at camp. I got a grand tour of the place during staff training. But when it came down to remembering exactly where the trail was that lead back up to the sixteen foot cross (where I gave my life to Jesus), at the end of the meadow that would lead us to the dining hall for lunch, I was dumbfounded.
I was paired with a volunteer staff member that week. An extra camper was more like it. I was frustrated that our “serious” Bible study included more jokes and laughter coming from a corrections officer in his thirties, who was supposed to be helping me grow the faith of a bunch of middle-schoolers.
The bell had rung, signalling us to make our way towards the dining hall for a lunch that I was sure to turn into some kind of circus act with the way that the joke-of-a-counselor was helping to run the show. I lead the group, huffing and puffing my frustration out, and turned up a narrow path that I was certain would lead us quickly to some grub.
The further we went in, I quickly realized it was a mistake. The bushes and trees with thorny branches closed in on us quickly and I was getting more and more scraped up, as we marched up single file along this path. The kids were laughing and singing some song as the lunch bell tolled a second time. We were late!
The path came to an abrupt stop. I could see the clearing that lead to the giant cross, but there was no way to get through the brambles that stood before us without getting seriously scarred. And I stood there with my back to the campers, just knowing that the rest of the week was doomed. Their fearless leader had lead them astray, and up a rather dangerous path.
I had no idea how to get back, except for from whence we came. And I knew that I had to face these kids and the “extra one” in the back of the line to admit that I had failed them.
“I frustratingly hack away at the brush that cuts me on this path of singleness, the thorns of lies that try to penetrate my skin, the leaves of worry, the vines of loneliness that weave so tight before my eyes that the only way I can even know there is a way forward is by the path at my feet. (And even that isn’t so comforting because I don’t know where it leads.) – Annie F. Downs
This quote from Annie reminded me of this story. With my back to the group, I allowed the lies and worries to bite at me just as the thorns had on my way.
But you know what. Those lies and worries were all for not because at the end of the week, when we sat around as a group, recounting the highs and lows of the week, I was certain that each camper would tell the tale of what a disappointment I had been, leading them up some deer path through the wilderness.
And you know what? Not a single child uttered a word about the experience.
I was astounded, and a little confused. So I asked the group about the day that I had lead them astray. They stared back just as puzzled. One camper looked at me and told me,
“We were just having fun and were thankful to be together. It didn’t matter where we went, as long as we were together.”
That statement blew my mind. I had spent the week worried that they would hate me or think that I was a terrible counselor, which caused my eyes to be blinded to the sheer joy and love that they had for the fact that I was leading the way, and no matter what wrong or right turn we took, we were journeying together.
Don’t allow the lies of the enemy tell you what you are and what you are not. Like Annie’s 20 something friend told her, you’re a trailblazer, setting the pace and marking the path for those to follow behind you. You’ve got this! God’s got you!