Family Camp Fears

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Last week I went to Family Camp. That may sound completely awesome or absolutely horrible to you. And I would understand either perception. The word “camp” may bring back wonderful memories of your youth spent in little cabins in the woods, or remind you of debilitating heat and humidity and mosquitos the size of attack helicopters. But Family Camp turned out to be a wonderful week for our entire family.

We went to Glorieta, New Mexico and enjoyed time in the scenic mountains, a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, archery tag (you read that right), mountain biking, zip lines, and so much more. We met other amazing families, had some pretty incredible food, and were ministered to by such a great staff. My hat is off to Josh Baker and all his minions!

But it wasn’t all fun and games. There was some soul-searching that I desperately needed. And what I discovered was something both simple and extremely difficult. I learned that my children and I suffer from the same disease: Fear. Not fear of something lurking in the trees, or even fear of crashing on a mountain bike trail. No, a deeper and darker set of fears. Fears so prevalent and anxiety producing that they can weigh us down and keep us from becoming who we were truly meant to be.

You see, one day, as we talked about burdens at camp, many of my children expressed their fears of rejection, insignificance and loneliness.

I get it. Boy do I get it.

Confession time. I come across as pretty confident and self-assured. Yet, deep down I often feel unwanted, incapable, under-appreciated. Sometimes I don’t try as hard as I can because that way when things don’t work out, I can always think it was lack of effort on my part, not lack of acceptance or appreciation from others. Yes, the fears of loneliness and rejection that my children mentioned are writ large in me.

So what can we do? Obviously we should work on our fears. Push through. Talk about them with God. But there is something else I learned that is even deeper than my fears. Family can be the place where rejection, need for attainment, insignificance, and loneliness are crushed under an avalanche of acceptance, love and togetherness. When I think about my fears, they so often have to do with whether someone will think I did a good job, or whether somebody thinks highly enough of my work to hire me. But I do not fear my five-year old daughter will reject me. She and I have a bond of acceptance that runs deeper than any anxiety. Why am I so concerned with what strangers think of me when the most precious gifts God has given me offer nothing but affirmation and love?

I know not every family has that. Family can be the place where some of us feel the most rejected. But even if that is the case, maybe we can be the starting point for changing that. Perhaps I can love and accept and hug and kiss and affirm and honor my family in such a way that their fears disappear when I am around.

The claim of Jesus is that “perfect love drives out fear”. I think the opposite is often true as well, “fear pushes away love and acceptance”. We truly do live in a battle ground between fear and love. May our homes and families become places of refuge, where fears are relieved, and love always wins.

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