This is a picture of me from when I was twelve or thirteen years old. I had just gotten my braces complete with headgear, and was wearing my new eyeglasses with the awesomely trendy oversize frames. You can see my favorite t-shirt, which (in case you can’t make it out) says Superklutz across the chest. It was funny because it was true. It was about this age that the doctor took me off the Ritalin I had been on since first grade, because the theory then was that people “grew out” of hyperactivity around puberty. I found people and relationships confusing and didn’t have many friends. I was not cool.
There are two main differences between the “me” you see in this picture and what I was like about a year before that. The differences don’t have anything to do with my overbite or glasses. That summer, I went to church camp at Big Stone Lake in South Dakota. The camp director (who had been one of my Sunday school teachers) told my mom she thought I’d like it so off I went even though no other kids I knew were going. I went to camp for something to do, and because I liked lakes and bonfires. I, like everyone I knew, believed in God and the Ten Commandments, and that God loves us, but church was just something we all did. What was the big deal? Truthfully, in my awkward and somewhat painful life, being a Christian didn’t seem to be bringing me any special benefits.
Somewhere in the mix of campfires and songs, field games and canoeing, s’mores, tater tot hotdish and ice cold milk, I learned that Jesus was more than a poster on the wall in Sunday school. I learned that God’s son coming to live on earth, teaching, loving, suffering, dying and rising from the dead was more than a story from the Bible; it was a miracle that had everything to do with me. Awkward, messed up, hopeless me. I learned that it didn’t matter what other people thought of me, or all the ways I felt like I failed at life; the God of all creation deeply wanted to be a part of my life, to change it, to fill it with radiance. God wanted to lift all the weight of fear and sadness off my shoulders and give me a future with hope. All I had to do was to ask God to do just that, and then let it happen. I had a lot to learn about loving and forgiving, and praying and serving, but it all started there, on a log under a starry sky at church camp.
The main differences between the Lynnette you see in the picture above compared to the “before camp” me is that I had a new hope in something that is indestructible and I had discovered the unconditional love of God. I was still nearsighted, snaggletoothed, clumsy, and unpopular but none of that mattered as much as it had before. Old hurts lost their grip, constant worries seemed less… worrisome. Things got better. Best of all, I believed God had a plan for me with purpose and joy. In this photo I was happy. My struggles weren’t all over, and I have gotten things wrong plenty of times since then, but if I can share one enduring truth with you it would be that inviting God’s love into my life has made ALL the difference. It is making a difference every day. You don’t have to go to camp to find this difference in your own life…but if you do go, you might be amazed at what you find! I gave a brief message in church and in the Sunday school classes on February 28 about camping opportunities through the Minnesota Annual Conference for all ages, children through adults. There are service camps, and special interest camps and camps where you can sleep in a tree house. There are family camps, kid and grandparent camps and camps that look a lot like the one I went to. You can click to visit the Camp Minnesota website or talk to me to learn more. Maybe this is your year for a camp experience!