I recently read a refreshingly frank, entertaining, and inspiring book called Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. And you should read it too! While I could go off on many tangents prompted by Miller’s stream-of-conscience writing, the part that has me thinking today comes from his chapter entitled “Lifeboat Theory”.
Miller has been describing this theory he has that if an alien – who had no influences from this world – suddenly dropped on earth, one of the main things he would notice is how we as humans are always comparing ourselves to each other. We are always sizing each other up to determine who has more worth – desperately competing for more worth, or value, than the next person – and that is what drives everything we do. Miller goes on to make the point that humans were designed by God to be in a relationship with Him – to seek our love and acceptance from Him – and because of the Fall, we have disturbed that original design plan, and instead we try to fill that void with acceptance of other humans.
Miller says this of the competitive lives we have created for ourselves, “…And so now it feels as if we live on a planet where there is just a little bit of water left, poisoned as it is, and we all are trying to get it and drink it so we can stay alive. But what we really need is God. What we really need is somebody who loves us so much we don’t worry about death, about our hair thinning, about other drivers pulling in front of us on the road, about whether people are poor or rich, good-looking or ugly, about whether we feel lonely or about whether or not we are wearing clothes. We need this; we need this so we can love other people purely and not for selfish gain, we need this so we can see everybody as equals, we need this so our relationships can be sincere, we need this so we can stop kicking ourselves around, we need this so we can lose all self-awareness and find ourselves for the first time, not by realizing some dream, but by being told who we are by the only Being who has the authority to know, by that I mean the Creator…”
While wincing at the reality of this statement in my life, I also realized that the time I have least felt this cutthroat competition for value is when I have been in the “Skyline bubble”. At camp I have witnessed the freedom of expressing exactly who I am without worry of acceptance, and I have also experienced the freedom that comes from loving others in that way as well. I know I am not the only one who feels this way about camp either because hands down one of my favorite perks of being a part of the Skyline Family is witnessing others experience this freedom – walking around camp and observing a camper who has been closed up all session finally smile as a result of counselors’ encouragement, watching a camper transform personalities as she departs from her car in the parking lot on Opening Day because camp is her “safe place”, and hearing a counselor give me reasons X,Y, and Z why she is ready to take on the world after spending a summer here.
Does the inescapable desire to compare ourselves to others exist at Camp Skyline? Yes. Does that competition for value exist everywhere on earth? Absolutely. But I hope we can link the carefree freedom that I and so many others have found at camp to a taste of the freedom that is found in Christ. Yes, it is incredibly refreshing that our staff loves and accepts our camp community without many barriers, but Christ loves and accepts us UNCONDITIONALLY. How much more enriched would our life be if we truly believed that our value existed not from the acceptance of other humans but because God takes pleasure in us?
Finally, the beautiful thing about this message is that it is not about camp – Christ takes pleasure in us both inside and outside the gates of Skyline. He loves us unconditionally wherever we go, whatever we do, whatever personality we develop, and however we look. Ephesians 3:17b-21 says, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to HIS power that is at work with us, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!” Amen is right! May I, and may we all, find our value in THAT!!!