This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to get together with a camp friend I had not seen in many years. Valerie was one of the first people I met when I arrived at Crystal Lake summer 1999 at the age of 10. With the vast experience two previous years at CLC had accumulated, Val seemed to know more about this special camp world than I would ever know. She helped me find the stables for my riding test and the waterfront for my swim test. She explained to me all about kapers and scrapers and hoppers and everything in between. I felt like I had found a new big sister (indeed, Valerie is two days my senior).
In the two weeks I was at camp that first summer, my family grew to include all the other girls in Weape. Every subsequent year as a camper and then LT, CIT, and staff at CLC has enlarged my family. Though familiar faces do return each year, there is a constant ebbing and flowing of newcomers mingling with old friends. But a stranger does not stay a stranger long at CLC!
What is it about camp friends that makes them seem like family? There are some friends, like Valerie, whom I haven’t seen in years, and yet every time we meet again, the old affections arise. Like family, we are all spread out, and not every members is able to make it home every year. But we love each other as much for the absence as for the presence of each individual.
The reason camp friendships seem so immortal is that the truth behind them is divinely eternal. At camp, everyone is encouraged to be honest, free, candid, genuine, always expressing their truest sense of God. This openness of spirit breeds a sincerely hospitable quality in the hearts of everyone either receiving or expressing this spirit. Camp gives campers and staff the space to simply be children of God.
Camp friendships are built on the mutual recognition of God’s qualities being expressed in one another. These qualities never fade. Although mortal measurements and human experiences may seem to take their toll, we already have such a spiritually clear sense of who we each are in God’s family, because of the strong friendship foundations established at camp.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-9)
Sometimes, it might feel like we need to have our friends around us in order to feel loved. Some years, we might be slightly disappointed that our best friends from last summer aren’t going to be at camp this year. Or we might be saddened if our friend group is broken up in different cabins. But we can acknowledge that the qualities we love about our friends, and the benefits we feel by having them close to us, are divine qualities from which we can never be separated.
It is false to suppose that our family of camp friends could ever shrink. God knows what we need, even before we know ourselves. He could not for an instant deprive us of the affection we seek in the company of our friends. Every year this fact is demonstrated when we go to camp and meet a whole group of campers and staff to add to our camp family! We are on the brink of another such adventure. As we peruse the packing list and make our last-minute purchases of waterbottles and clean socks, let us also prepare our hearts for the new blessings of friendship we can expect this summer.
If on our daily course, our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.
Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see;
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.
New mercies, each returning day,
Around us hover while we pray;
Old fear are past, old sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God reveal our heaven.
Margaret Perry is a long time camper/counselor of CLC who now works here as a year round staff member.
This summer she’ll be taking on the role of Girls Head Counselor!
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