Saturday, July 27, 2013
The names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. For the record, the identifying numbers are in no way indicative of their level of friendship to me; the numbers were just assigned in the chronology in which they appeared in the story.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, I went camping at a local State Park with four families from church. Our campsite was what is called a "walk-in" site; that is, we had to walk over a small bridge, on a path, over another small bridge, and up another path littered with exposed tree roots. Though not too dangerous, you still had to pay attention when walking. The washrooms were located just a short distance from our site, but across the road. Therefore, you had to navigate the aforementioned bridges, hill and tree roots each time you needed/wanted to use the restroom.
The weather for our trip was wonderful. Not too hot, not too cold, and little rain. However, rain from the previous week had made parts of our wooded campsite a bit boggy. On Friday night there were brief and gentle showers, but not a soaking rain. The paths were a bit muddy and slick, so more care had to be taken when travelling to the bathrooms.
About 2:00 am Saturday morning, I woke needing to use the bathroom. I put it off as long as I could because I really didn't want to walk "over the river and through the woods" to the bathroom. Finally, I could no longer ignore nature's call so I threw on a pair of shorts under my nightshirt, slipped on my sandals, grabbed my flashlight and carefully walked in the dark of night over and around the tree roots to take care of business.
The next morning we women compared notes on our prior night's sleep. Friend #1 mentioned that she had had to get up in the wee hours to - umm, well...wee. Friend #2 said she too had to avail herself of the facilities because her preschooler had to go number one. I shared my own precarious travels through the pitch dark woods when Friend #3 piped in "I had to go, too but I just went out behind the tent by a tree." (For the record, Friend #4, pregnant and camping with a toddler was still deservedly asleep in her tent during the conversation).
It was a shock and awe moment for me. I was in awe of Friend #3's guts and openness. I was in shock that she would boldly expose her behind at camp with - well, not total strangers but certainly not real family, either. And these were church people, at that. What would have happened if one of the kids or husbands had gotten up at the same time???
Saturday was a beautiful, fun-filled day. We hiked, we swam, we ate a fantastic meal cooked over the campfire (Garlic Rosemary Pork Loin thanks to Friend #1, and venison steaks thanks to Friend #4 and her husband). However, during s'more time it began to rain. It wasn't a very hard rain, but it was steady and we all got a good soaking.
After we packed up the food, put various equipment under cover and secured camp, we all turned in for the night. In addition to being wet from the rain, I was also pretty sticky from sweat and humidity. It's hard enough to undress when sticky, but to do so in the confines of a small, two-man tent is next to impossible so I decided to go to sleep in my clothes - a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
About 2:00 am, nature again tapped on my shoulder. Well, actually she pounded on my bladder. I tried to ignore her, but she was persistent. I had no desire to walk the dark, tree-root strewn incline to the bathroom. At that time I remembered Friend #3's boldness and decided to follow her example. It was still raining, and I dreaded getting wet once again and having to go back to sleep in damp, sweaty clothes so I brazenly stripped off my shorts and carefully snuck out of my tent to the nearest, most private tree, in the darkest of spots.
Mid crouch I had a horrible thought. What would happen if some cheeky raccoon came along and bit my exposed cheeks? What if one of my camp mates came along on their way to the facilities? What if it was one of the kids? The thought terrified me and I started to have an anxiety attack, at which point my legs got a bit weak and shaky. This brought on an even more horrible thought. What would happen if I fell over and broke a hip? Should I yell for help and bring everyone running or should I just lie in the mud until someone (hopefully only ONE, not many) got up?
As usual, I worried for nothing. I completed the necessary task, returned to my tent and redressed, tucking myself safely in to my sleeping bag, leaving no part of me exposed. I had exposed enough for one night.
Drifting off to sleep, I thought about what had just happened. Camping with these friends, I was seeing more of their real selves; their faces sans makeup (the women) and unshaven (the men), faults and foibles being revealed. Had Friend #3 not been so open as to mention her exploit of the prior evening, I would have stomped through mud and tripped over tree roots, getting rained on and feeling miserable. Her transparency made my life a bit easier.
In fact, living with these folks for only a weekend I was able to see some of their true selves emerge. Their frustration, impatience and weariness were on full display; like the proverbial elephant in the room, these couldn't be easily covered up in this venue. I even saw little 2-year old ZW, a child with whom I am enamored, throw a temper tantrum or two. But I also witnessed many acts of patience, kindness and generosity. Our little campsite was a community much like our home neighborhoods and churches should be. In a tent community, privacy is limited; there are no doors or windows behind which to hide or keep people out.
Isn’t this how the church is supposed to be? Isn’t this how we’re supposed to be with each other? And aren’t we supposed to give and expect compassion and forgiveness from our Christian brothers and sisters when (not if) we fail? We keep our mistakes and sins to ourselves due to pride; our own and that of other Christians. We’re afraid of facing judgment – justly and unjustly. In trying to save face we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience grace.
As I think of all the embarrassing possibilities of what could have happened to me that dark night in the woods, I think that had any of those horrors come to pass those are the people with whom I would care to share my mortification. They would have laughed – at me, with me, whatever (hey, it’s funny). Because of their love for Jesus, I know they love me. It is with these people I bare my soul; it for these people that I will bear their burdens. But I hope to never bare my bottom again. I think we all are of one mind on that!