I haven’t talked much about how my youngest two did at camp for a week. S went to the girls camp and M the boys camp, both Christian, mission oriented camps.
Their experiences were radically different.
S got in the car after I picked her up and was chatty and keyed up, totally normal teenager stuff. But within the first ten minutes she began sharing about Thursday night’s session, a time when the girls got totally honest with the group, themselves and God. She said there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Girls talked about cutting themselves to ease the pain, thinking about suicide or knowing someone who committed suicide. For my S, it was a radical look into the torture that other girls her age carry inside. Later on that day as she continued to talk about her experience, she thanked me for being her Mom. For always being available to listen and accept her as she was. She got a glimpse into the lives of other teenage girls and realized God has been gracious to her in giving her a family that won’t give up on her and loves her completely.
Picked M up at camp and we ate with him as the campers were leaving. He was pretty excited, too, but didn’t really introduce us to anyone other than his cabin counselor. He talked a lot about his activities, how he won first place in archery and learned how to shuffle cards and pick a lock with a bathing suit cord. He showed me his typical boy scrapes and bruises. And that was it. No other information was offered about chapel times or mission experiences or anything related to God and his spiritual life.
I decided I would wait him out. Didn’t ask him anything more for three days.
“The” conversation started with S showing M a skit online that the girls watched at camp. (I’ve linked it below.) He kept waiting for it to be funny instead of moving and life changing. She got upset and told him to leave and I intervened.
For three days we didn’t ask him one question about the spiritual impact of camp, if there was any. For three days we waited for him to initiate conversation. None. Silence.
On this day I finally asked him if there was any depth to the camp for him, any time when God spoke to him.
My son’s exact words: I sat and listened to God and he didn’t talk to me. It wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I hadn’t heard over and over and over again.
My husband then gave a brilliant analogy. He said there’s a difference between a destination and a journey. A destination is where there is a specific goal, a location you are striving for. A journey doesn’t have a specific goal. It is the process of discovering where you are headed. Prodding M, he couldn’t seem to recognize that the journey is the relationship. You never get there. You will never arrive. M thinks his spiritual life is a destination. He’s checked it off his list and he’s done. Completed.
His words: So you mean all this work I’ve done is for nothing? He was distraught to think he wasn’t done. That there were incomplete parts of his life and relationships.
Conversation after conversation continued. Words, more words and encouraging and reaching for his heart. When I am in that moment the words flow from a place deep inside. From a relationship with God that allows me to reach for the hearts of my children. And when I’m done I can’t tell you one succinct thing I said. It is God, not me.
To further reach the heart of my son we went back and watched the skit my S was showing us. It was a gift from the heart of the Father, who loves my son even more than I can imagine. Knows his shame and the baggage he carries around in his search to be “normal.” Moments when I realized that this video was sent by God (through M’s sister) to minister to a part of his soul that is so damaged and empty.
“I want to be like other normal children, to grow up in a home where you get mad at each other and then work it out and move on. To be secure and loved.”
As my mouth dropped open, I told M that he DID grow up in a normal home. A home exactly like he described, where you have problems, work them out and then keep living and loving. He believes he is not normal because of the few months before he came to us. I pray for the day he realizes all he DOES have and not just what he has lost.
If you have the time, I’d love it if you’d watch this ten minute video. It is life changing and life affirming. You won’t regret the investment.