Another season of summer camp is behind us. The kids and I returned home yesterday with a mountain of dirty laundry and a plethora of fun memories and new stories to tell. After a peaceful night of sleep in my own bed - without ten chatty, squealing, giggly little girls sharing the room - I'm up and already working on the 14th load of laundry. Soon, we'll be able to walk through the utility room again!
I am reminded again this week of why so many parents send their children to camp, rather than going to camp with their children. Working a camp for children - whether you are cooking meals, teaching Bible lessons, or overseeing group recreation - is unbelievably exhausting. After dinner at home last night, I sat at the table in a bleary-eyed daze. While two of my boys started cleaning up the dinner dishes, I honestly felt so weary that the thought of even standing up from my chair overwhelmed me. I'm just going to sit here and cry!, I thought to myself. I am SO TIRED! Sore, stiff, and bone-tired, I wilted at the prospect of tackling all that laundry and planning for today's grocery run to restock the kitchen. Fortunately, a shower revived me long enough to make it until bedtime.
My co-teacher, Amy - a beautiful young woman in her 20's - also commented about how very tired she was after several days of camp. I think you could have pushed either one of us over with a feather by the time we saw the last of our campers packed up and headed for home! But, we both also experienced something wonderful that more than compensated for the fatigue we felt. We both knew what it was to be empty...completely and desperately empty.
After a day of actively engaging non-stop with a herd of small children, followed by late-night staff meetings, how could either of us possibly keep our eyes open long enough to hold and comfort the home-sick 7-year-old who needed to be rocked to sleep? Tired and testy ourselves, how could we possibly deal patiently and calmly with hormonal, emotional teenage girls? We both had occasions during the week when we looked at each other and said, "I don't think I can do this anymore!"
I love the story of God's redemption of his people Israel from slavery in Egypt. Over and over again, we see this vast nation caught in desperate circumstances - between a sea and an army, between famine and thirst, between unbelief and idolatry. And over and over again, when Israel reaches the point where they can do nothing else to save themselves, God says, "Be still." They wear themselves out with labor and worry and anxiety and stress, until they are empty and completely spent. Like me, they cry out, "We can't do this anymore!" Then God tells them to be still, finally, and watch what He will do for them.
That's kind of what happened at camp. I reached a break point - I can't do this anymore! God said, "Good. Now that you're done, watch what I am going to do." Amazingly, God provided the strength and the grace and the compassion that I lacked. Provided them in such abundance that they met not only my needs, but overflowed to the children around me. The sulky teenager who had been so belligerent on Tuesday, came up and gave me a big hug before leaving on Thursday morning: "I love you, Mrs. Camille." "I love you, too - I'm so glad we got to be together at camp this week!" God had transformed both our hearts. The tiny homesick camper bounced up with a bright smile. "Can't we stay for just one more day, Mrs. Camille? Please?" "No, honey, it's time to go home. But maybe we can be in the same cabin at camp next summer." Loosing sleep had become a small price to pay for the opportunity of becoming one of this little girl's friends.
God calls His people to do big things. Uncomfortable things. Impossible things. Things like loving our brothers and sisters, young and old, when we are too tired to even think clearly. Often, I tend to shrink back, because I know the work will be more than I can handle. I don't want to be tired, uncomfortable, inadequate, broken, empty. But I'm learning that God will not use a pot that is full of itself. No, He will empty it first. But then He will pour it full of Himself - a glorious fullness indeed.
7 hours ago