When I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established.
I wrote a lengthy reflection on my time at summer camp last month which I’ve shared with my parish as a long article in the monthly bulletin. For this week, I’m going to share it with you in five parts. Today is part three.
Summer camp was hard this year. It’s hard every year. Managing 90+ campers and another 25+ staff and priests is challenging. Doing it with sleep deprivation is an added challenge. Doing it with changes in the weather, different personalities, and unforeseen things constantly happening is very difficult. In some ways, camp is a microcosm of my life when I’m not at camp. I work around a lot of people. I’m often sleep deprived. There are constant changes, difficult personalities and unforeseen things. I think the difference between life and summer camp is that at camp, I had a more keen sense of the Lord. And I had a deeper sense of intimacy in general. While there were many moments where I was disappointed, even sad, at the outcome of things, and where there definitely was a schedule, an agenda and goals for the week, there were some mind-blowing intimate moments I experienced, where it was enough, where I felt so blessed.
To look someone in the eye and tell them they have value. To tell someone who is going to confession that they should feel safe. To tell someone who is broken up because of sin that God still loves them. These are truly intimate moments, where I felt a great sense of “it is enough” and the people I shared them with felt them as well. Of course, this was not on the first day of camp. It was only after a significant amount of trust building, laughter, seriousness and frivolity. But imagine if we had done all these things and never got to a moment we felt safe, or worthy or content. The image of the hamster running on the wheel comes to mind—and that is the state of many lives—we run and run and we never seem to get to that place of intimacy, with God or with one another. My point is that intimacy—a sense that we are safe, worthy and content—should be part of every life on a regular basis. And in this face-paced, “who has the most likes” world we live in, we’re losing this.
My most vivid memory of camp this year was some intimate moments spent with the Lord. One night, I was walking back from somewhere with one of the staff members. We looked up in the sky and both took notice of how the moon was shining through the trees. We had been talking about the week, about its ups and downs, and we had also been talking about life, and its ups and downs. The scene took us both by surprise. We had been so busy working that perhaps we had forgotten we were in this beautiful place of nature. We had been so busy problem solving that perhaps we had forgotten that God is in charge. He is the ultimate problem solver. He is the one who gives us the wisdom to meet life’s challenges. It’s not us operating alone, but Him operating in us. At that moment, we stopped problem solving, in fact we stopped talking. We paused and looked at the moon. We looked at the stars. We saw the rays of the moon coming through the trees like God’s fingers blessing us. The little gray spots on the moon made us think of God’s angels up there in His presence. It was at these moments that I realized I am not the center of the universe. He is. I don’t need lots of likes, only His. My goals are important but they are not as important as His goal for me—salvation. And my never-ending pursuit of contentment, feeling blessed and wondering “is it enough?” found its ending right where I was standing. With HIM. I was reminded of Psalm 147:4, where the Psalmist writes, in relationship to God “He determines the number of the stars, He gives to all of them their names.” I realized that I am one star in His galaxy, even if I feel unnoticed in the world. I realized that I am a star. But I’m His star, because I’m a star in His galaxy. I’m not here to be a star on earth, but one of His stars in heaven. And that only happens when I am content, with Him. In that moment, I experienced contentment, peace, and intimacy, with Him. For the first time in a long time, it felt like it was truly enough. Him, me, all of it.
Now I’m back in Tampa, where on most nights the city lights make it too bright to see the stars. It’s back to the busy rat race, the agendas, the list of tasks that never gets completed, the tough personalities, the temptations, the joys and the failings. It’s hard to feel always blessed, and some days its hard to feel blessed at all.
But I will forever remember my images of the moon and the stars from summer camp. And I will forever remember that feeling of intimacy with God, where it was enough, in fact it was more than enough.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, Thou art very great! Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment, who has stretched out the heavens like a tent.
Thou hast made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. Thou makest darkness, and it is night.
O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in His works.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord! Amen.
Psalm 104: 1-2, 19-20, 24, 31, 33-34, 35
Work on building a sense of intimacy with the Lord.