Camp Friendships: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

For twenty-five years, any time I have been asked to describe my favorite place on earth I have always described sitting in a white chair on the edge of Lake Edith either with a friend by my side, or a Bible in my lap, or maybe both.

When I was sixteen years old, I even designed and created a stained glass window showing two girls sitting side by side as the sun set over Lake Edith and gave it to my best friend Reece as a gift.

When I was a camper we often talked about how camp friendships often felt very different from our friendships back home and that the reason for that difference was that Christ was at the center of them all. But at the time I’m not sure I truly understood why or how. I had friends at church after all. Wasn’t Christ at the center of those friendships as well?

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Camp is a retreat from the world and all the hustling to keep up, and as campers we were both free and encouraged to be the “fearfully and wonderfully made” image bearers of God that we are – sincere, courageous, honest, kind, and full of the truth.

I now believe that is what makes camp friendships so different. It’s not just that Christ is the foundation; it’s that at camp each girl has permission to be exactly who she was created to be, and it is in that sincere and genuine space that these friendships are formed.

At my final Five Year Celebration during my senior summer, one of my dearest camp friends, Rachael Burks, paraphrased a passage from the The Catcher in the Rye during her speech. She talked about wishing that she could take everything about camp and keep it just as it was at that moment forever – preserve it all in a glass jar or museum case. It’s been nearly twenty years since she spoke those words, and I still remember them because it so accurately described how I felt as well.

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Fast forward to this past September when on a whim, at the last minute, and with a little encouragement from my husband, I decided to attend the Alumnae Reunion. After a few furiously busy days of prepping and planning for my kids so that I could be gone, I got in the car and made the five hour trip from Nashville. It had been more than decade since I had even been back for a visit and I had butterflies in my stomach as I pulled through those familiar gates.

Reunion weekend was everything I had hoped it would be and more. In the span of just 48 hours – from opening night spaghetti through Challenge Day, Banquet Night and church on Sunday morning, I both laughed and cried harder than I have in a long time, and God reminded me that I am indeed created in His image and called to live a life congruent with His plan for me.

I connected with an old camp friend of mine who also had decided at the last minute to attend. When she walked into White Hall on the first night and we started talking, it was like no time had passed at all. Both nights were spent in Deep Meaningful Conversations with my cabinmates. The conversation topics may have changed from when we were campers, but the conversations were just as meaningful.

I was reminded of that five year celebration speech as I drove home because it seemed that somehow camp had been bottled up in a jar and preserved for all these years. Even as a grown-up Greystone girl, camp is still the same retreat from the hustle of the world.

It still invites us to be free in who God created each one of us to be, and it is in that genuine and sincere space that deep connections are still made.

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