I liked her right away. She was pretty, funny and outgoing. I could tell that she was interested in me as well by the way she looked at me and talked to me. This was the first year of camp for both of us, and neither of us had many friends. Connecting on this, we overcame our nervousness and got to know each other.
We spent the seven days of camp spending all of our free time, all of our meal times, and many of our activities together. Even when we were not together, I was thinking about her: the new pretty Church girl that I had met and connected with on day one. My dorm mates and I talked about her, I wrote her Sabbath notes, and I made plans to continue our communication and perhaps a relationship after camp was over.
I attended United Youth Camps for seven years as a camper. As I grew up, relationships came and went from my life—new campers came and old campers left. The girl I met my first year dropped out of Church sometime later, and I had other camp crushes as the years went by. Similarly, many guys and girls that I knew had a “special someone” that they had their eye on at camp, looking for chances to get to know them and spending their time thinking and talking about them. Sometimes we can put more effort into our camp crushes than into what’s really important about camp: our relationship with God, developing interpersonal skills, and our own self-improvement. These are the things that we should be focusing on!
Our Church is very spread out. I grew up two hours away from the closest congregation. Similarly the closest person my age in the Church lived 31⁄2 hours away in a different state. There are not a lot of chances to make friends, see friends, and meet someone of the opposite sex to have a friendship with. We have the Feast of Tabernacles, perhaps Winter Family Weekend, and then we have United Youth Camps. So naturally my friends and I were seeking a closer relationship with a girl or a guy at these different functions.
As I look back though, I can honestly say that I believe my best years at camp were those that were not spent chasing after girls. This is because when I sought after those types of relationships, it superseded all of the other relationships that I could have and should have been focusing on. My most profitable and enjoyable years were the ones where I focused on my relationship with God, growing in character, and cultivating spiritual friendships.
Camp is such a short period of time. It always seems like it ends as fast as it begins. We have the opening dance or meal and then in a blink of an eye we are packing up and saying our goodbyes. During these few short days, we have the opportunity to really learn something about the way of life that we are in. We have Bible studies, compass checks, dorm prayers, and interactions with so many others who believe the same as we do. In Ephesians we are told that we should use the time and opportunities we are given wisely because life goes by fast (Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×). This is especially true of Church camp.
Camp has always been a catalyst for relationships. It’s a place where a person creates and maintains friendships, a place where lifelong “brothers” and “sisters” are made, where connections with staff and counselors lead to mentorship and growth, and of course where an intimate and special relationship with God can be cultivated.
My camp “crushes” weren’t sinful or anything, but I allowed them to take the place of why I was really there. I was there to learn about God, myself, and to build lasting important relationships—not to spend every waking moment thinking about a girl. It’s important to take the opportunities that God gives us to focus on Him and His way rather than selfish or distracting things (Colossians 3:2 Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
American King James Version×).
It can be hard, because camp puts us in close situations with attractive and enjoyable people of the opposite sex, so naturally we will want to pursue relationships. The purpose of camp though is not to focus on things of the “flesh” as the book of Romans tells us, but rather things of the “spirit” (Romans 8:5 Romans 8:5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
American King James Version×).
It was difficult for me to learn this lesson. Many of my years of camp were not as enjoyable or profitable as they could have been. I’ve come to see that there truly is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3). In other words, there is certainly a time for pursuing and focusing on romantic relationships, but that time shouldn’t have been at camp.
As we look forward to this summer and the beginning of another great camp season, we have the opportunity to make our own experience truly wonderful. We should be constantly checking ourselves to see what our focus is. Why am I here? What do I want to get out of camp this year? How can I really grow as a person? These are all great questions to ask ourselves as we begin camp.
I would challenge any camper this year to try teaming up with a dorm mate or a counselor to help with having a great experience. Tell them your personal goals for camp and ask them to help remind you to stay focused as you go about the activities and social events. If we all work together to have a successful and spiritually-rich camp experience, this will be the best year at camp yet!