Wednesday, June 22, 2005

learning lessons from camping with kids...

Last night I returned from one of the most fun (and tiring) camping trips. I was blessed to be a chaperone for 17 1st-6th graders from our church on an overnight camping trip and tubing adventure. We arrived at camp and was then informed that none of the kids who went had ever been camping before. Excellent, I thought. None of them have ever pitched a tent, started a campfire, cooked over a fire, or taken a night hike (although, now looking back, I think few had ever been on a hike in the daylight hours, also). They were, for lack of better terms, outdoor-camping challenged.

The first order of business was to get the campsite prepared. With each group of tentmates, I went over the basics of deciding where to pitch a tent, clearing the spot of debris, and then how to pitch a tent. Over and over I heard things like, "I can't do it!" Within an hour, though, all the tents were up and the adults (aside from one stubborn, pesky taj mahalish tent) had to do was help the kiddies when they got in trouble. They realized they could do it.

After dinner, we sat around the campfire singing different songs followed by a round of 'smores. Once the 'smores were totally engulfed, the group went on a night hike. At first the kids were excited, but as the trail became more difficult, they began to complain about it being too hard or they became scared. We patiently helped them along the 1.7 mile hike and when we arrived at the end, nearly every child in the group said, "We did it!"

The following morning, we broke camp. I took a couple of guys with me to begin tearing down tents and showing them how to roll them up and store them. Once again, they exclaimed how they were unable to do it. I finally asked one what Philippians 4:13 said. He didn't know, but another boy answered. "It says, 'I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.'" I asked what it meant and explained that through Christ, we can do anything. We can get this tent packed, we can hike a hard trail and we can go tubin' down a river. There's no need to fear anything or think we can't do something because God is in control. I slowly talked them through the process of packing up a tent and helping them when necessary. When finished, they both exclaimed, "We can do it!"

Looking over the trip in a Doogie-Howserish manner, I can see so much of me in these kids. While I've never been afraid of the outdoors or thought I couldn't do something--possibly a reason why I had so many busted knees and noses as a child, I find myself fearing the unknown as an adult. I want to be in control. I want to have the plan, yet God doesn't give us the plan most times.

We all have fears and many of them are irrational. We fear trying new things. We fear the outdoors. We fear heights. We fear spiders. We fear snakes. We fear failure. We fear people will find out our secret sins. We fear people won't love us. We fear God won't love us.... This fear keeps us from doing so many things and holds us in bondage to people-pleasing and legalism. We don't want to do some things because of what people will think. We don't want to do new things in church because we've always done them the old way. We always have to do these things otherwise God will not love us. The freedom we have been given in Christ is smothered by our fears and worries.

Thankfully, we have been placed (or at least have been designed to be placed) in communities where people can come beside us and help us along. Thankfully we are children of a God who will lovingly guide us through something and coax us--sometimes pushing us if necessary. We can rest in the fact that God is in control and will take us exactly where He wants us. There is no need to fear. We are loved by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe...

until Christ is formed in us...


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