After washing the cherry pie filling off of my bare feet, I gathered up my socks and sneakers and ran back to my cabin; the dirt and dust that covered the floor and the piles of small shoes and dirty underwear plagued my mind. We’d just finished playing Pie-Filling Baseball, a wiffle-ball sort of activity where the bases were boxes full of, you guessed it, pie filling, and the base counted only when you stepped in the box. Nurse Abby would soon come around to inspect the cabins while the girls were in chapel, and cabin #7 looked like it’d been hit by a tornado, a stampede of angry dairy cows, and a clown that had a mud fetish.
I stepped into the cabin, throwing down my sneakers and grabbing the broom to begin sweeping like a mad woman. The left side of my face was aching, the looming threat of sickness. All of the counselors were sick in some way or another. I ignored the exhaustion that made my bones ache, the frustrations that made my head hurt, and the spiritual hunger that made my soul ill. I hadn’t been able to spend time with God (that blissful morning hour with pen and paper, God’s word opened up on my lap) in three days, and I was starving for Him. As I tried to sweep in the few minutes I had before nurse Abby came, I struggled to keep the tears behind my eyelids. I just wanted to sleep, to talk to Him, to go home.
Junior campers, those children in the age group of eight to ten-years-old, were a huge challenge. I had never been in a position where I had to deliberately minister to them, to share the gospel with them. I was a mother of eight this week, though I was sure I didn’t know the first thing about mothering. I felt like I was constantly reprimanding and instructing, constantly answering questions, constantly pacifying fears and indulging silly activities. I felt like I was the mean counselor who never had any fun and was just like a parent. I felt like I was failing.
Nurse Abby came in then, clipboard in hand. I told her straight up that we’d lost points for our team on cabin clean-up, and that she might as well not even cross through the door frame. She smiled knowingly at me, checking my unemptied garbage and the unmade beds of my little girls. Then, after marking my cabin off on her list, she turned to me and asked me how I was doing. I knew I couldn’t fool her, so I described my state of my mind and state of body. I generalized because I was tired and panicky, though the rational side of me still fought to remain objective and optimistic and collected. “They never listen,” “I just feel like none of them are having fun and I’m totally ruining this week for them.”
At this point, she took the broom from me and asked me to sit down. I obediently sat myself down at the foot of my bed as she began to sweep my cabin for me. She then asked me to lie down, and when I told her I’d wait until she was finished she replied with “You’re not really helping me while sitting up, so you might as well lie down.” I obeyed, and the moment my head hit the pillow the tears began to flow and I fell asleep, the stress leaving my body as I silently prayed to God, “Lord, I’m going to rest now…”
At the beginning of the week I had been fatigued, and it was obvious that Jesus was going to have to physically carry me through the week, because energy was something I seriously lacked. My attitude was not the result of a lack of love for my girls, but rather a combination of exhaustion, inexperience, and the inability to reach them. I just had no idea how to even talk to them. I wasn’t sure how much they could comprehend or what they knew about Christ or where they were coming from or what they needed…but God did. And I guess that’s why He stepped in during the moments where my energy was gone, when my patience was gone, when I didn’t know what to say.
I had been blessed with a little third grader named Ella, a piece of Heaven with autism. Her joy and her knowledge of the gospel and Jesus Christ put me to shame and I suddenly realized that these girls were much more aware and competent than I was giving them credit for.
Wednesday, when nurse Abby acted as my mother and cared for me when I didn’t feel I could take care of myself, I didn’t know what was going to happen for the rest of the week. I didn’t know that one of my more distant campers, the girl who was hard-hearted and never opened up to me or let me hug her, would open up and ask me questions that cut me to the heart and made me leap for joy, would hug me willingly, would ask me to pray for her. I didn’t know that at the bonfire to close the week almost every girl in my cabin would thank God for me and express how much fun they’d had that week with me. And I sat there, knowing that it had nothing to do with me. I have no idea how I got through this week, much less glorified God. I was certainly trying, even though my sickness was ever-present and the injury of my finger rendered me a bit more uncoordinated and incapable than usual, if you can imagine that, but God came up under me and lifted me up to where I could thrive rather than just survive.
God won this week, even though I felt like I was losing. I guess this is what Paul meant when he described being strong in weakness.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, ESV)
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” —2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV