I have an ambivalent relationship with camping, probably a shock to many of our regular readers, but perhaps not so much to those of you who read deeply enough. My initial response to camping is a raised eyebrow and that, "Really?" look that my friends tell me they can read for miles on my face. Really? You want me to be outdoors without an air conditioner or a mattress? Really? You want me to be without my stylish clothes and my snazzy shoes and my Nars fushia lip gloss?
But underneath that response is this other part of me who grew up in the woods, who thinks bare feet make every outfit better (okay, maybe not Chanel, but almost every outfit), and who used to crawl outside her childhood bedroom window onto the roof late at night to watch the moon and listen to the owls tell their secrets. She is fed by the wind in her hair and long walks in the woods and the smell of a horse barn and the small moments in the morning when all creation is just waking up and taking their first deep breaths of the day. And - shocking to some - she camps.
I've been camping metaphorically for most of my life, and I've done a fair amount of the other camping, too. Amy, a priest friend (aren't they all), spoke recently of a camping metaphor. When we are rambling in our lives, walking through the woods on our journeys, we will all find ourselves lost.
That's just one of the rules. When you walk in the forest, you will get lost. The trail you were following disappears. And the first panicked response? To turn around and start running. Run to safety. Backtrack until you find something familiar. Crash through the thorns and briers until you are bleeding, even though you don't know where you are. But by all means, run.
Because you are lost, right? Except being lost on our way is part of God's holy movement in our lives. Living a life of courage means we will get lost, we will take one too many steps off the main path and find ourselves deep in a scary, unknown place.
Which is when the Almighty whispers to us, "Make camp."
I never, ever hear the whisper at first. My panic is talking too loudly. I run. I try to burn the woods down, or engage in many other futile acts that don't make me safe and usually just make the whole situation worse.
Eventually, like all of God's raging children who are being called to newness, I exhaust myself and sit down. Or let's be real, I fall down from sheer weariness. And I make camp. My soul knows how to do that - to create a safe place in the middle of the forest where I can rest and listen for the songs of the owls and talk with the moon. And from that space, as Amy went on to say, we can explore our options. We can strike out on a new path, go down it for a while to see if it looks promising. If it does, wonderful. If not, I know where my camp is, and I can return.
From this holy camp, I can give God time to show me what I need to see to continue on my journey, whatever truths I have resisted acknowledging or whatever newness I need to see about myself. Often, the only time we humans stop long enough to listen to God is when we are lost, wandering, and weary. From this holy space, I can listen to parts of my soul that haven't been heard, because the world speaks very loudly to us and in us, too often drowning out the very core of our instinct and silencing that still, small voice of authenticity. From this holy space, I can believe in the miracles of love and life and remember the peace of wild things.
A temptation is to stay here, in this place, and that isn't helpful either. Just as God whispers, "Make camp," She also says, "Go forth." When the path is ready, although not always clear or safe; when the next part of the journey is yours to engage; when the courage to try is just a smidgen more than the fear of failure, God will rip away the tent and the fire and push us forward into life.
It's a harrowing journey, this thing called life. It's hard and challenging, and the moments of amazement can easily get overshadowed by the moments that are fearful. We will get lost on our way - over and over again.
When - when - you or I get lost again, because we will, after the panic and the tears, stop and breathe. And remember, our souls know how to make camp.