At the tender age of twelve, I packed a suitcase and a traincase (who else grew up calling a tiny suitcase filled with makeup. shampoo, deodorant, and a hair dryer a traincase?) for a week of Christian Camp in Western New York. This girls’ camp had been in existence since forever, and although I was happy to be with a few friends from church, I was nervous rather than excited.
It was exceptionally hot that July, and with cabins that were primitively dark, damp, and musty, we looked forward to swimming. As soon as our parents left, our camp counselor informed us that due to a lifeguard shortage, sixth graders would not be swimming on this particular week. Instead, we could take sailing lessons as long as we wore life preservers. This was going to be a long seven days.
As it turned out, we had one sailing lesson, because rain fell in torrents most afternoons that week. The girls from our cabin stuck together, and visited the camp store where we ate too much candy. At lunch and dinner we were told to drink our milk, which I could not do without gagging. I was accustomed to drinking mainly water, and simply could not choke down milk. My sweet friend switched cups with me, thus drinking two milks, while I started feeling funny from lack of hydration. In desperation, each night I would sneak out of my cabin and head to the showers, drinking water from a spicket outside the building. Not a good plan, and I was sick each morning.
I finally asked my counselor if I could please have water at mealtime, and she told me that camp was a time to grow up and toughen up. I nodded and pretty much decided I was not going to ask her for anything else.
One afternoon mid-week, when the sun poked out from behind the heavy clouds, our counselor reminded us of the importance of trusting in God. We had been having campfire discussions about this, so nothing new there. It was the way she said it though. I had a funny feeling that we were going to embark on a surprise lesson. I had had enough surprises that week (no swimming, upset stomach, musty cabins, only one sailboat lesson) and did not relish the idea of any more.
Follow me girls, she said. So we marched single file behind her for a short hike through the woods. Eventually we stumbled into a clearing. In front of us sat a log cabin with an old pickup parked outside. Form two lines at the bed of the truck, and grab hands with the girl across from you.
There were ten of us, so five one side, five the other. Palms up as you hold hands. We rotated our hands as our camp counselor jumped up into the bed of the truck.
Today, we are going to do trust falls. Just as we need to to trust God, so we can learn to trust others.
Oh no. This I could not do.
As the counselor turned her back to us, she crossed her arms over her chest, and reminded us that we could not bend our knees. This is a picture of trusting the Lord, girls.
She fell lightly and our arms swayed, but we caught her.
She picked the next girl, who waffled for a minute, then fell back but bent her knees a bit, and although we broke her fall, she landed with a thump in the dirt. She laughed and so did we. Kind of.
The next girl went, and was far more solid. She did not bend her knees, but her weight caused our damp hands to lose their grip and she landed more loudly and hurt her tailbone.
In hindsight, this would have been an excellent time to call it quits. But no. She tapped my shoulder. You are next, Kristin.
I climbed up in the bed of the truck and looked at the large maple tree above me. It was beautiful and I wished that I could be as anchored to the earth. This trust fall was something I would not do. And in my twelve year old heart, I also realized deep down that this had nothing to do with trusting in God. I loved God, and I did not trust these girls to catch me. We had already dropped a few campers, and I had no intention of adding a bruised tailbone to my growing list of bad things at camp. I also did not trust my counselor who refused to allow me to drink a lousy cup of water at meals.
At the same time, I was not the girl to buck a system, or to talk back, or to be publicly embarrassed. So I had to quickly choose: embarrassment or getting injured. Embarrassment won.
I cannot do this.
Oh yes you can. You trust God, don’t you?
Yes. But I won’t do this.
She shook her head and I jumped down, ashamed of what my friends might think.
As it turned out, they were real friends, and really did not care that I bowed out.
If we place our trust in people, we will live in a constant state of fear. Look about you. Our world is wringing their proverbial hands during this time of global pandemic. If we take a trust fall into the arms of worldly opinions, or CNN or local news, we are going to land with a hard thump. This is not what God asks of us.
God beckons us with Fear not. My heart is grieved to see fellow believers panicking. Nothing in this world happens without God’s knowledge. He sees our tears and anxiety and calls us to abide in Him. He is our shelter and our shield of protection.
Christ died for his bride, the church. He knows the hairs upon our head, and he catches all of our tears in his bottle. We have been given a specific amount of days on this earth, and we are to live them fully, not in fear, but in joy, serving and loving others.
My hero of the faith is Elisabeth Elliot. She faced many hardships during her life, and often shared about battling fear. Her first husband was killed by a tribe of people whom he was serving, and her second husband died after a raging battle with cancer. Acceptance is the key to peace in suffering, she taught women. And she lived those words. For the Christ-follower, suffering sands away our heart’s rough and calloused edges. Without suffering, we would remain cold and heartless.
Fear not should become our mantra. Bad things are happening, and will happen as long as we live on planet Earth. The Bible teaches this. But it also teaches us that faith is not born out of fear, but out of trust. Not in people or government or worldly goods, but in Christ alone.