This weekend, church camp was redeemed for me.
In the past, I have had less than awesome church camp experiences. A lot of this had to do with my own insecurities and anxieties but, nevertheless, I went into the weekend simply hoping that I wouldn't have to embarrass myself by playing football badly or choreographing a dance routine in five minutes. In fact, the only reason I was going was because I got to spend the weekend with my freshman girls group, my "little sisters."
In the last six years, I've been in five small groups and had eleven leaders. I have never felt more loved and more appreciated than I do with my freshman girls and my two incredible leaders. And as surprising as it is to me that the place I finally feel like I belong is with freshman, I can't deny it. Not only do I adore each and every one of the girls that I have the privilege of being a big sister to, but I cannot express how much I love my two leaders. They care about me, about what's going on in my life. But, more than that, they care about my relationship with the Lord. And for that reason, among many others, I will forever be thankful for the wisdom they pour into me.
But the thing about my leaders is that they don't shy away from tough topics. If they need to call you out on something, they will (although nicely and not in front of people). But, this weekend, the biggest lesson I learned wasn't spoken about. It wasn't discussed. I wasn't called out on it. In fact, it barely related to what we were talking about at camp. Which, by the way, was incredible. The majority of the camp was about the power of words, something very near and dear to my heart, and our speaker was the incredible Annie Downs, whose website and book you should definitely check out.
The last night of camp, we had the moving and wonderful opportunity to pray over each cabin at camp as a body of student girls. While I loved praying over all the other girls at camp, it was not the prayers that moved me. It was a glance. A single glance to my right. Where I saw my two leaders embracing their teenage daughters as they held each other up through the high emotions of the evening.
I teared up. And I looked around some more. Friends were embracing friends. Leaders were embracing their girls. And I looked at myself. Embracing nobody. And I realized that I didn't have anyone to embrace. I didn't have someone to hold me up.
And at first, I started gearing up for a pity party. Did no one love me? Did no one think I needed that?
But the real issue doesn't lie with everyone else. It lies with me.
I didn't let myself cry that night. I held it in, as I always, at least, try to. I stood up straight and put on a good face, so as to say to the world, What? What are you talking about? Nothing's wrong with me. I don't need any help. I don't need anybody.
Because somehow, I've lived my life believing a lie, without even realizing that it was a lie. Like so many others.
I was believing the lie that I had to be strong for everyone around me. That I had to be this pillar, this unmovable stone that others could lean on, and it would never fall.
For my parents. For my brothers and sister. For my friends. For nearly anyone I come into contact with.
I have to be strong. And that means no crying, no weakness, no vulnerability. Revealing just enough of my brokenness and my inadequacy to seem real, while holding back nearly everything of substance. All in the name of being strong.
But what it strength, really?
Guarding yourself from being an object of pity or sympathy? Hiding your true nature from everyone around you? Is that strong? No.
No, it's not. It's weak. It stems from a deep-seated fear. Fear of being thought of as "less than". Fear of being pitied. Fear of being known and not loved.
God does not give us a Spirit of fear. Being strong for others doesn't mean you hide yourself away. That you shield your failures, your doubts, your questions, and your brokenness from them. Strength is having the courage to be vulnerable.
Sometimes people will lean on me. And sometimes I won't have any other people to lean on. But God is a rock, a firm foundation, the cornerstone. He is immovable, unshakable, solid. He will never fall. No matter how hard I lean on Him.
Strength is found not in being a rock, but in leaning on the Rock.