The minute I set foot onto camp, I was terrified. No, let me clarify – I had been terrified for several months. I had never attended camp as a child. Growing up, my summers were consumed with visiting family and friends on the East Coast, leaving me little time to spend a week out in the woods with strangers. That meant I had no idea what Gaga Ball and Blue Juice were, and which motions you had to pair with which camp song lyrics. I also wasn't at all familiar with the small Christian camp that I was going to be working at.
I had never been on campgrounds. I had never met the staff (although they all seemed to know each other). I'm not sure if I'd even been to the area that the camp was in before. I was so scared because I knew very little about the job I had just committed six weeks to working at.
Actually, I did know one thing for sure: camp would be difficult. People had mentioned to me that I would be exhausted from lack of sleep, long hours and being around kids all the time. My mom, always looking out for me, cautioned me that being around people 24/7 would be difficult as someone who likes to read books and be alone. And, of course, I had browsed a few Buzzfeed articles and blog posts about camp horror stores. But I never knew that camp would be challenging in ways beyond the job description. I never prepared for the true unexpected – camp would break me down, in the best possible way.
Camp rocked me to my core. From the first week, I felt overwhelmed as a counselor, because I never realized the true depth of leadership and maturity needed in order to disciple a cabin full of kids who are just looking for the right way to go. Suddenly, all of my campers were looking to me for the answers that I just didn't feel qualified to provide. I had girls ask me questions from how to witness to a non-Christian classmate to when lunch was, and I felt as if I never had a sure answer.
I felt so clueless – especially when my girls got into some crazy and difficult situations, and I had to handle them. I also felt entirely clueless on the inside. I compared myself to the other, more mature counselors and told myself that I was doing a bad job. I believed more and more lies that I told myself until I felt that my identity had disintegrated into nothingness.
So yes, camp broke me down. But it didn't leave me there. In the moments that I felt the most inadequate, both inside and out, I was led to Christ. When my identity felt like it had crumbled, I started placing it in Him. When I didn't know who I was, Christ built me up again using His truth. And camp taught me all that was true about myself – starting with who I am in Him.
When I started listening to the lies that I told myself, God whispered His truth to me. He taught me that I am everything that He says that I am, before what I or the world says about me. You are accepted. You are loved. I didn't feel these truths all the time at camp. But they are the truths that I held onto all the same. They are truths that I built my identity on because they were what God said about me, regardless of how I felt.
When I had no clue on how to lead my campers, He was right by my side. Through camp, God taught me the importance of praying, in all situations and all circumstances. I remember praying for the words to be empathetic with a camper during a conversation. I remember praying with my co-counselor for energy for a camper who was being rude to us, or because we were really tired and needed strength. I learned that I could bring all of my uncertainties to God, because it was His work for His glory, and He would ultimately provide.
All in all, being a camp counselor is far from easy. This has been one of the most difficult summers yet – but not for the reasons I expected. The real challenge was camp revealing to me that I was not as strong as I thought I was. But God built my identity right back up again in His Word and in His truth so that I was stronger than ever before. I certainly didn't expect I would change so much this summer. But I know that this change, no matter how painful, was for the good. It's a change that I hope to carry with me into college, remembering that Christ is the Rock that I can base who I am upon.