I never really went to camp as a kid. Sure, we had a wonderful Covenant camp nearby in southern New Hampshire, but my summers were filled with trips to the library, VBS at church, and playing endless games outdoors with my neighborhood friends. The first times I really remember going to camp were in high school for our winter retreats in New York state.
So it’s been a new thing – a wonderful one – to be here at Winnetka, where camp is a way of life. Where kids look forward to summer camp all year long, and sing camp songs on Wednesday nights during the school year, and pile into minivans and church buses on weekends in the fall and winter to trek up to camp for a couple of nights.
I had a couple of opportunities in my first year at WCC to travel to camp at Covenant Harbor, for our women’s retreat and various Central Conference gatherings, but I didn’t make it up to camp at Covenant Point until a couple of years ago. And I was surprised by what I found there.
Not surprised by how beautiful it was – I’d been told, over and over. Nor by how good the food is. Or how wonderful the staff are.
But by how camp feels, and what it does inside of me.
There’s no argument that Point is far. That’s part of what kept me from going, in all honestly, for my first few years here.
It is a long drive, but it is also far from my normal life; far from the city noise outside my windows all day and well into the night. Far from the bustle of everyday living, with its screens and technology and movement and stress. Far from my normal community of friends and neighbors; more often than not, far from my Zoe.
Far from my comfort zone.
Every time I get up to camp, I find myself a little disoriented. Raw. Like not just my iPad and my computer have been stripped away, but some of my feelings of security and my sense of place and identity. I feel a little lost, like a kid going to camp for the first time.
I usually get up to camp wondering why I went. And go to bed longing for home.
But then the thing about camp – so far, without exception – is that I leave deeply glad I came. Feeling rested and restored and connected in ways I do not experience at home.
And it’s the journey in-between those two emotional states that I am pondering today.
What happens in me at camp? How do I go from feeling homesick and heartsick to calm and at peace?
I think I will have to keep going to know for sure, but for now I think it has a great deal to do with people.
Because every time I feel like maybe I shouldn’t have come, God seems to give me a little nudge in the opposite direction through the presence, words, or actions of a person.
This weekend, it was the kids greeting me at Friday breakfast.
The staff person who helped pull my truck out of the snow (yes, I did get it stuck there).
The family who invited me to their Thursday night pizza dinner in town.
The friends who brought me on my first snowshoeing trip.
With enough of these little nudges, I remember how wonderful and vital community is, and how connecting can be intimidating and tiring (especially for us introverts) but how it is abundantly worth it.
And after a few days, or at most a week, I go home feeling thankful for all if it. For being stretched and uncomfortable, and for learning new things and being more fully present than I have been for a while.
That is as true this morning, after a few days at camp with our church family, as it has ever been. I am tired, I am glad to have my bed back, but I am so grateful I got to go to camp, and already looking forward to the next visit.