That’s how many seasons, give or take a few, I’ve packed up a suitcase, tracked down my musty sleeping bag, stocked up on heavy duty bug spray, dusted off hiking boots, and then gone away to camp. Away. To summer camp. For me it’s not yet summer without at least seven days at camp. So in the coming weeks, as I have since I was sixteen, I’ll spend 168 hours in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of like minded adults and 250 youth too. Crazy? A little. Excited? Absolutely!
Our hopes for that time are simple: to discover or rediscover a sacred place, a separate place, a special place, an away place, maybe even a holy place, and all in God’s Creation.
Not that summer camp is for everyone.
The world is clearly split into two opposing camps when it comes to camp. Some can’t get there fast enough while others would rather endure a root canal than spend rustic time among the sticky pine needles and free roaming critters right outside your door. And the bugs. No matter how tightly I shut my screen door, one lone dive bombing mosquito always finds me. Privacy? Where else can I share a communal bathroom with one hundred new friends? Fine dining—that’s hot dogs by the lake or a raucous breakfast with a table full of fidgety thirteen and fourteen year olds. Finally, all the screens I’m so addicted to staring at will go blank: no cell calls, no Netflix, no emails, no texts, no Facebook.
But that’s precisely why I love camp too.
For it gets me away, it takes me away, sends me away, unlike any other place I claim as home the other fifty one weeks of the year. It’s the only time I take the time to lie back on a dew covered ball field and then stare up in wonder at a night sky filled with so, so many stars. Being away and unplugged reminds me that the “community” I experience in cyberspace always pales in comparison to spending face to face 24/7 time in an intentional community of campers and counselors. Camp allows me to be childlike, even joyful: jumping into an ice cold lake at dawn, singing silly songs around a campfire at the top of my lungs, saying a gentle “Good night” to a cabin full of kids.
Granted, I may not be able to talk you into going to sleep away camp but perhaps I can push you to find a similar soul refreshing experience before these last precious weeks of summer slip away. Hate to say it, but before we all know it, Labor Day will be here and then our chances to get away and go away will just slip away.
Away. Find it. Go to it. Then enjoy it.
A quaint cabin in the woods or a familial house near the beach. A special day at the amusement park, with frightened squeals of delight on the roller coaster, or a cold frosty ice cream at the local creamery, as the sun sets. A visit to an amazing national park or a road trip cross country to rediscover that America is still here and is doing okay. Time for a long bike ride on a lonely country road or time on the sand with a book to lose yourself within.
My away place is camp. That’s where I find God amidst the tall trees and puffy white clouds and a nighttime lullaby of peepers. We all need our away time: time to unplug, chill out, just be. Where is your away place? May you get there. Go there. And maybe even find the sacred when you finally arrive.