I spent two summers working as a counsellor at Camp Winston in my early twenties (since when am I not in my early twenties?). Anyone who's ever worked there will tell you it's lifechanging. The campers and counsellors change you. Situated on Sparrow Lake, the setting is beautiful - we would go for canoe rides down a windy river beside the property; every morning we strolled down the camp road; there were starry skies at night and fresh air all day long. But I never enjoyed my surroundings. For me, the actual job was so demanding and high energy, I often had moments throughout a day where I would think, "I know this sunset looks beautiful right now but I just don't feel it," or, "I can hear the loons but am unable to enjoy the sound," or, "my what a gorgeous paddle that was... wait, where did my camper go?" They were rewarding summers, for sure, but not due to relaxing by the still waters.
This week Ben and I are at my Aunt Jo's cottage. She kindly let us set up base here so Ben could do some PhD work. A writing getaway.
We arrived on Sunday night and Isaac and I hung out on the dock while Ben set up his work space inside. I know Baptiste Lake well. I also know the peaceful feeling I usually get from being here - the lake, the loons, the fresh air (sound familiar) - relaxed. Isaac was enjoying himself - filling up a little watering can with water and emptying it into the lake. Every time he leaned over the dock, I would hang onto him to make sure he didn't fall in. Visions of disaster entered my head. I wasn't feeling the peace and I was reminded of my Camp Winston paradox. The fact that this experience was familiar made it even more of a dilemma. Day One of our cottage retreat... was my peace fix beyond reach?
The next morning Isaac and I found ourselves on the dock again. This time throwing rocks in the water. Again, I held on tight to him as he bounded up and down the dock, flinging rocks with all his might into the deep waters below. I started thinking of strategies - how would I relax? A permalifejacket? A no dock rule?
Instead, I started to sing... from within me... to worship. Isaac joined in. Instantly, I felt peaceful.
Sometimes our surroundings help us feel peace. It's logical, natural peace, like the kind you get when you're watching a sun set over a lake and you hear a loon call in the distance and you reach over and put your hand on your husband's and your son plays at your feet and your dog sleeps in the shade, and you all just sit there, not saying anything, and the breeze shuffles through your hair. Peaceful places and moments are great.
But for all the other times when we can't make those peaceful moments happen, there's a peace that comes from deep within. A peace that we can't strive for, but that we can tap into. It's the peace of God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).