Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The weekends are my least favorite time at camp. Between the crucifixion play, commitment fires, and staff member pie-ing Saturday night, I’m not a fan. But this weekend I feel will be different. This weekend has been different.

Last night I sat through my 8th viewing of the crucifixion play. As I watched though I realized, as much as I’m uncomfortable with seeing Jesus on the cross, again, and singing songs about blood and flesh, again, the play isn’t only about death. The play seems to last longer and longer each week, but as I became more conscious of what was going on, I realized that Jesus was already dead before half the play was over. This does not change my view on how Christians overuse the gore of crucifixion, eh hm…Passion of the Christ anyone? But it gave me something else to focus on.

My friend Katie commented on my Crucifixion blog about how she focused her cabin conversations on love instead of death. This might be what everyone is trying to do anyway, but it gave me somewhere to start. Friday nights get easier the older the kids get. So last night wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t pressure them or force them to talk. I will never, ever force a kid to pray. We talked about their lives and what it means to be truly free.

As we walked back to the cabin, Teresa said, “Heather, when we get back to the cabin can I share my story?”

“Of course,” I said excitedly. “I’d really like that.” We walked a little further until I said, “What’s on your mind?”

Deep breath. “Porn.”

She continued to unload an existence of guilt and shame over what she’s done and what she’s seen. But somehow this week at camp, she realized that she didn’t have to carry that around anymore. She wants healing and a new beginning. After awhile I stopped her and hugged her close. “You are so brave.”

In the cabin, I said, “I remember the first person I ever told about my struggle. I sobbed and sobbed for awhile before I could even form the words, ‘eating disorder’. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone. But strangely, the more people I tell the easier it gets and the lighter the load.”

Teresa shared her story. Short and to the point, but healing for her I know, just to say it outloud.

Quiet. Then another girl…

“My dad is addicted to meth. He started using cocaine and tried to kill my mom. The therapists say I have a stress disorder. I’ve tried to kill myself four times. We live near a busy road and four times last summer I went and laid in the middle of the road waiting to get run over, but a car never came. I starved myself two years ago, but I’m probably over that now.”

Then another…

“My sister tried to kill me with scissors. It didn’t work. I don’t know why she hates me so much. My parents don’t believe me. Sometimes I claw at my own arms till they bleed. I almost had sex with a guy. My parents found out and got mad. I still text him. All the guys at school think I’m a whore now. My dad has this evil streak and when we were kids he used to beat us. I don’t know what all this ‘freedom’ crap is. I’m just confused.”

Silence. And then…

“I don’t have a really bad story or anything. This bad picture got passed around on myspace. Everyone thought it was me. All the guys at school think I’m slut. My dad saw it. He got so angry. I feel bad. He’s been to Iraq and I don’t want to make him more angry.”


“Yeah, my story isn’t that bad either, but my dad molested my step sister. My mom wants me to hate him, but he’s my dad. I know what he did was wrong and I’m scared to be left alone with him, but he’s still my dad. Our name was put on all the newspapers. Now everyone thinks our family is bad. My mom has married 3 times since then. I want my family back.”


Ahh yes, this is why I was looking forward to teen camp. Now we can talk. I get some odd high off of hearing other people’s stories and working through them. I am a crier for sure, but only about my own problems. Not last night. I thought about the innocence of these 13-16 year-olds. They have lived such short lives and have endured so much hurt. I cried for them.

After the sharing ended, one girl joked, “Heather, you must be scarred by all our stuff.”

“Absolutely not. I am so grateful that you shared your stories with me. I don’t know what all of you are thinking about yourselves right now, but let me tell you what I am thinking. I am thinking, Wow, these girls are brave. It takes a lot of guts to share that part of yourself. I don’t think any of you are gross or bad or messed up or awful. In fact, I think I like all of you even more than I did an hour ago.

“I’m so sorry that this has happened and that you are hurting. You don’t deserve this. This doesn’t have to be the rest of your life. There is healing. If you are all completely and totally honest with yourselves, ask yourself, “Is this my true self? Am I a whore? Am I an anorexic? Am I only worth killing?” If the answer to any of these questions is, “Yes,” then please dispute the lies in your head with a definite, “No.”

“Whatever lies you’ve been told about who you are or what you deserve in life, I dare you to consider that they are dead wrong. Who are you really? If you are waiting for your family or the guys at school to decide who you are, they’ll always be wrong. Know for yourself that you are loved, valued, and deserving of life, not because of what you look like or what you’ve done, but because of what you are, human. No one can take that away from you. You are worthy because you are human. So when someone calls you a whore, you can say confidently, “No, I am not.” Or in another way, if someone says you are a kind person, and you know that you are, you can say, “Yes, I am a kind person. Thank you.”

We talked about who we are created to be and how we start to believe the lies of what we should be.

“I’m so sorry for what you all have been through, but you are more than this. You can be whoever or whatever you want to be. There is healing. You don’t have to live bound by these chains. Tell people you trust and respect. Ask for help when you need it. Never be afraid to be everything you were created to be.”

Prayer doesn’t come easily to me around other people, but it did last night.

I prayed for healing and change and growth.
I prayed for comfort and peace.
I prayed for new beginnings and hope.

Because as I’ve learned and continue to experience, there is hope.


Ashley said...

Your grace in the face of difficulty and disapointment is the most beautiful thing I've experienced.