In the late hours of a wintry night, a cold wind blew hard up the valley. It howled from an unusual direction, bending tree and limb. Under the unaccustomed pressure, seemingly sturdy trees gave way to the unyielding force, grasping desperately to the earth as their mass was moved inexorably to the ground.
With a house-shaking thump I was jolted awake, wondering at first what it was, then where it fell and what was lost. In the shock of a mere moment at midnight in my bed, I was confronted with the pain and fear of further loss in a year bursting with it.
Camp Squeah, like most other church camps, has had to grapple with an unaccounted amount of grief and loss. Loss of community, opportunity, revenue, relationship, employment; loss of the chance to give generously to thousands of lives who typically grace our beautiful place. My heart has been a basin constantly filled with the overflow of grief over these losses.
And yet there seems to be an oddly poignant grace that has accompanied this grief.
Thinking of our remarkable trees, never in my 14 years at Squeah have we had such losses to life and limb—trees, that is. Buildings damaged, activities crushed and some truly magnificent softwood giants have fallen.
And yet, when we see the inside of some of these tree trunks, we see that many were quite rotten. It is also strikingly apparent that, to have had these losses with hundreds of people on site, would have put at risk the lives of countless children. Now, in the midst of my grief, I find thankfulness a constant companion.
How our Lord Jesus uses grief as a vital tool in spiritual growth is a great mystery and profound miracle. It is an echo of the grief of Christ that drives me towards God. And now that the whole of my life at camp has recently become a cauldron full of difficulty, the Holy Spirit is stirring up to bring me to deeper understandings of his great love, joy and life. How much more is our whole community and ministry at Camp Squeah, and what it means!
How might we in the camping world embrace all our grief, discover thankfulness, have eyes to see God’s grace in our losses, be willing to grieve with one another honestly and listen to what his Spirit is saying? These are the difficult yet essential questions I wish to ponder. How about you?
Tim Larson is Camp Squeah’s summer and outdoor education director.