Middle School Camp 2
One of the things I love about photographing camp adventures is capturing the beauty of campers as they relax, have fun, make new friends, and learn about God’s love for them.
On the first day, campers are a bit nervous. Their expressions are careful when I photograph them playing the get-to-know-you game. Their actions are cautious as they take in this strange new environment called Camas Meadows Bible Camp. But given a day with their cabin, campers’ joyous goofiness is revealed. So beautiful!
Perhaps this is part of why we as a people both hate masks and yet can be so quick to create masks for ourselves.
Faramir, our speaker for middle school 2, talked during chapel about the masks we wear.
As controversy rages about masking for healthcare purposes, we’re nonetheless prone to cling to the masks of our own making with grim determination.
Are we the smart kid, the beautiful one, the science nerd, the athlete, the drama star?
That’s fine, but what if we are more than one thing?
What does the beautiful one do if she also loves science, computer games, and Jesus?
What does the athlete do if he also loves baking, back packing, and Bible study?
You would think these amazing and complex individuals would simply trust the Lord who made them and rest in the fact that they are deeply loved by the one who died just for them.
But even we as adults sometimes fall to the same temptation.
What do adults do at work, at their kids’ school, when they walk into a board game convention, or at a church potluck?
All too often, we hide behind the exact same things as our children. When stepping into a group of people, we put on a mask.
When we are at work, that “super responsible employee” mask slips over our faces.
Volunteering at Jog-A-Thon at our kids’ school … well, the “perfect parent mask” takes over.
At a sporting event? Yeah, it’s easy to let the “passionate fan” mask slide into place. Or even the “telling the refs and players how stupid they are” mask or that pesky “I never swear with church friends but football is serious business” mask.
Therein lies the problem. The masks we wear don’t always play nicely together. Sometimes they appear to represent completely different people with a completely different set of values.
Is it any wonder our children do the same?
But while the “Christian kid” mask at youth group, the “chess club champion” mask at school, and the “his dad never counts the bottles” mask that get a child invited to friends’ houses appear to make them blend right in with each group they encounter, God is concerned about deeper things.
He sees past the healthcare masks we argue about, past those invisible masks we snatch up on purpose, and looks upon the person we really are deep down inside.
Man looks at the outward appearance (whether physical or relational or completely made up) but God is different. God looks at the heart.
That is what I love about the freedom found in Christ.
I am constantly delighted as I discover the same kind of beauty while taking pictures for camp.
I start out capturing one thing and slowly, as the week marches on, I end up seeing something completely different come into focus.
Yes, camp is about paintball, horseback rides, and celebrating your birthday with a tea party in the meadow.
Camp involves fake mustaches, water fights, and working together to TP every single cabin in a scramble of less-than-stealthy rowdiness that is sure to reveal who the culprit is.
But as the campers live all these crazy moments together, the masks begin to slip and the real person starts to shine through.
Amazingly, this happens when indoors with facemasks in place as well as out of doors when the face masks are shoved into pockets or hung nonchalantly over one ear.
Because it is that pile of invisible masks that are causing the most trouble. These masks are the ones keeping us from being honest with ourselves, others, and our Lord.
Faramir pointed out how difficult it is to experience our new life in Christ when all we are offering God is our “church kid” mask instead of our very selves.
How can we be light and salt in a world full of hurt when we pull on a new mask for every situation? How can we be different, be like Jesus, if we are simply blending in?
At least two campers chose to give their lives to Christ this week and many more made renewed commitments to follow Jesus in honesty and truth.
Because what we as adults can find so difficult to recognize, these children understand.
It is not the mask that is priceless, beloved, and precious in the sight of God.
It is the person.
The actual person is the one who can live and love and choose in whose steps they will follow.
God is calling to the person, not their many masks.
Clearly, the campers relished in this new knowledge as we had many mask and hat themed skits illustrating Faramir’s talks.
From epic battles between beard and hat wearing fighters …
… to the adventures of “Good Child” and “Churchy Person” as she tried to navigate life clinging to all of her masks.
The skits were both hilarious and thought-provoking.
And also, strange. We dare not forget strange. Sometimes the mask was a shark head monster that inexplicably appeared in an insane Scooby Do adventure.
Clearly, the shark head mask was far more dangerous than we even imagined!
But whatever props they used, the campers illustrated this truth again and again.
Jesus is calling to the real you.
He is longing to rescue the actual person you are, not everything you pretend to be.
Yeah, we have reasons for the masks that we wear.
Being honest with ourselves is hard.
It’s harder still to be honest with the many different people who share our world.
If we are honest, we will never quite fit in.
Some will judge us. Some will shame us. Some will discount us as unimportant and not worth their time.
But these people, they are not our judge.
We have one judge whose decision counts. One judge and He is the one who made the heavens, the earth, and all that is contained within them … including you, including me.
That judge, well, He is the one who made Himself poor so that we could be rich.
He is the one who suffered so that we could rejoice.
He is the one who was raised so that each of us can choose to be raised with Him.
And yes, He is the one who died so that though we die, in Him, we can truly live.
And how can this glorious transformation occur without being truly honest with our Lord, trusting in His love for us just as we are, and believing in His power to grow us into everything that we were made to become?
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”