“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” - Isaiah 45:3
I used to be a camp counselor.
I used to be afraid of the dark.
For three summers I spent my Sunday mornings packing up to head back to the mountains, and my Saturday afternoons doing loads and loads of muddy laundry.
We had a beautifully shaded property.
Even when the sun was shining you could count on a cool path from one place to the next.
People are amazingly good at adapting.
I wasn't very good at being outdoors 24/7 when I started my job that first summer. I've always been a fearful person. Afraid of heights. Afraid of loneliness. Afraid of going too fast. Afraid of big storms. Afraid of big bugs. Afraid of being looked down on. Afraid of being unloved. Afraid of being misunderstood. Afraid of illness. Afraid of . . . . . you get the picture, right?
All of that changed because of learning how to camp out. In the dark. I did not lose all fear. I'm still a fearful person. But I learned how to face fear in a more direct way, and to accept that good can come of that.
Hey - that's me and my 4th of July week ONE MATCH FIRE! I was a little bit proud . . . . we won't talk about the fact that it hand't rained in weeks and therefore all of our firewood was close to spontaneous combustion . . . . that may have made it a little easier for me to build a one match fire.
It seems like a million years ago.
I can remember the first week I received a group assignment where the kids were old enough for one of the camp sites "up the mountain."
I was NOT a fan of that.
I remember telling my boss that I was just not sure that I was ready to tackle that. He said that I was ready and that it would be a good thing. I did not believe him. Camping out involved a lot of equipment, a bit of a hike, the pitching of a tarp (depending on the camp site), a fire, cooking for however many kids were there, cleaning up, and getting everybody to sleep without homesickness. It also involved dealing with whatever weather decided to happen that night.
I don't remember a whole lot about the first campout. As you might assume, we all survived.
I do remember that after it was over, I was ok with the whole process. And that I wasn't afraid of leading kids into the dark woods and making a little overnight home under the trees. I was not afraid of saying, "It's ok for the sky to get dark at night. We need the dark of the night just like we need the light of the day. It helps different animals grow. And it helps other animals rest. It's beautiful. It makes us see things differently. There is nothing wrong with the dark."
God is with us in the dark. Literal and figurative. If we have eyes open to see it, we can find beautiful things growing up from the ground beneath our most unpleasant human experiences.
I am NOT saying that our bad experiences are meant to torture us into being better people. I do NOT believe that. God doesn't have to use bad things to change us. God is God. And God is good. I'm sorry if that seems subversive - it is counter to the Christian culture we've built up in many parts of the world.
I AM saying that God is the master of changing bad to good. I AM saying that God can take our broken spirits and give them back their beauty. God can do anything. God is not hindered by the same things that we are. And that's excellent. That means that we have reason to Hope. That means that we have reason to Believe that Good can grow from anything.
Sometimes I think about working at Camp. And I say to myself, "If I could do that, I know I can handle this."
Life is made up of many such realizations.
If you think about it, we spend our entire human life "in the dark."
We don't get to know what God knows.
I really want to know all of the plans! I want to know the future! I want to know where I'll fail and where I won't. Don't you???
But we don't know. And we can't know. And that's probably for the best. For me, the blessing of being in the dark is knowing that it's a natural part of this life.
I realize that the music name is "OneLittleLight" . . . so a whole essay on the virtues of darkness might seem out of place . . .
But it's not out of place. One of the other beautiful things about the dark is that it helps us to decide what kind of light is valuable.
When we were in the woods taking night hikes and camping out, we tried not to overuse flash lights. They ruin your ability to see details in the dark. And a camp fire encircled by friends is much more beautiful.
You know what else I love about a camp fire??? We built our fires as a community. Everybody pitched in to gather the kindling. Everybody had a hand in tending it and feeding the flame. Everybody had a responsibility to take care of when we began to cook the meal. It was a wonderful exercise in working together - not so different from acting as the Body of Christ.
So now I will tell you one last secret.
Most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm a mess. And when God tells me that it's my turn to go camping, I say, "I'm not a fan of this, God. I don't think I'm ready. I don't know how to do half of that stuff. And that backpack looks really heavy."
I suspect you spend a lot of your time just as mixed up as I do.
God has a history of loving the unwanted and calling the ill-equipped. We become whatever God creates in us. And it's always enough.
Peace and Goodness.