Camp was never about camp.
Three summers at Eagle Lake Camps. (That’s 36 first weeks, if anyone is counting.) Upon arriving to an unfamiliar place with few familiar faces, my program director confronted our staff with a simple question: “Why are you here?” I thought I knew why I was at camp. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to give of myself to help high school students know him. However, in the coming weeks, months, and years, God answered that question in many palpable and unforeseen ways; He would show me not only the “why” of camp, but also the “why” of everything. He was showing me that His glory – and not mine – was the “why” of all things.
In the weeks before our campers arrived for my very first first week, I remember having a TAWG (time alone with God) at Glen Eyrie with the rest of the Eagle Lake staff. Knowing that I was about to have the chance to love 60 high school students for the Gospel was so electrifying; honestly, I was merely 12 months removed from high school at the time, and my ridiculous sense of humor had already come up with a handful of absurd ideas to help me get to know these kids. I had plans to shave my legs in exchange for memorized Bible verses, eat pounds and pounds of cheeseballs, and play golf with tennis balls around the camp property.
In the stillness of my time alone with the Lord, though, He very subtly gave me a new plan for that summer. In Galatians 1:10, Paul says “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Lingering over this verse was the beginning of a long, challenging, liberating lesson from the Father: What “why” do I live my life from? What is my deepest purpose? Am I more concerned with the temporal, or with the eternal? Will I abandon me for Jesus, or not? Jesus had begun to teach me what it meant to be his disciple, and it meant less of me, and more of him. I loved pleasing people. I loved the approval of men. I loved me. But would I love the satisfaction of intimacy with Christ more? God was going to show me the joy of losing my life for Christ’s sake, and in doing so, finding my life in abundance. He was showing me the “why!”
Throughout the rest of that summer, and the two more to follow, Jesus continued to make clear to me how to find joy, life, and peace. I needed to find myself in the Gospel, and nothing else. Camp is a place that forces us to consider where our treasure is. In my case, I searched for validation and identity in the opinions of others. How hollow are those things compared to the love of the Father! This is one of the great truths about being a child of God: We don’t just let go of our lives for the sake of letting them go. We lose them so that we can find them! We deny our selfish, sinful desires for something so much better, and so much more satisfying – Jesus, the bread of life. Jesus himself makes it clear in John 15. After imploring his disciples to abide in his love before anything else, he tells them why: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Studying these words early on in my first summer at camp helped me to realize all the more the big “why.” Jesus is better than the world. He gives life that is worth losing everything for.
When I think about my time at camp, I quickly recall so many memories of laughter, fun, friendships and conversations that I will never forget. However, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about camp really has nothing to do with camp. I think about how God taught me, through His Spirit, His Word, and His people that His love and His glory are the only things that carry meaning. He taught me to think like John the Baptist and say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is the “why,” and it’s a simple thing! The love of God in Christ Jesus is the greatest joy we could ever find, and God is most glorified when we embrace this joy. It’s a funny thing that God would teach these sorts of lessons at a summer camp in the Colorado mountains, but I’m so grateful that he did. Because of the work of God in my life at Eagle Lake, I agree with David in Psalm 63: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
Not sure how to spend your next summer? Apply to be an Eagle Lake Camp Counselor and work with people like Lucas.