Saying “yes” to Woman Camp caught me a little off guard. I knew I was supposed to go, but I didn’t know I’d be asked so clearly and with such grace. That “yes” shifted my trajectory.
I grew up holding everything close to the chest, lacking trust in the majority of my surroundings and generally leery of having close relationships, especially with other women. Saying yes meant I’d probably have to work on some of those areas given that, you know, I’d be camping (ie. in close quarters) with hundreds of other women. Hiding in plain sight was a skill I’d mastered, yet I could feel the walls coming down and the vulnerability beginning to leak out.
If there’s one thing I knew about myself, it’s that I’m quick to serve/hide/task myself into isolation when it comes to large groups. I figured saying yes, I would do simply that and avoid all of what I assumed would be forced or awkward conversation.
I showed up, and somehow in the midst of beauty, I let go. I was met with a peace, a safety, and a comfort that challenged me. There was no awkward, there was no forced. There was a genuineness I’d never experienced outside maybe say one dear friendship. What if, living in vulnerability and transparency at a larger scale was not only possible, but healthy? Within the span of 30 hours, the remnants of a hard inner shell that I’d been using to guard my heart, my thoughts and my real humanness, fell—and I willingly let them. Because what I realized was that we all, in some way, were fighting the same lies that were keeping us from being who God purposed us to be. I heard God speak clearly, and boldly, and yet still doubted myself. But I shared. I poured my heart out about who I was, what I believed and what I felt God was doing in my life; and not one person judged me for it.
In fact, I walked away from that camp with my arms and heart overflowing. Bonded with sisters I’d never thought possible, who cared. Like, love you in the trenches, cry with you over spilled milk, pull you up when you’re beating yourself down...cared. I walked away with a community that was ready to rally. A community that was willing to trust me with the same inner mess that I’d let out into the world, to realize we’re all the same, and strive for the same things. To believe fully that we are loved by a God who is beyond all that we can imagine. I stood on the gravel, watching everyone walk away...lighter. We’d left all those lies in the woods, and we weren’t ashamed anymore. I wasn’t ashamed anymore of what made me, me. Better yet, I had friends who wanted me around, the good and the bad. I could breathe. It was like years of repression melted, and my arms could reach up, high and clear and there was peace.
I’d been around the “church” world long enough to know that sometimes, the afterglow, is fleeting. Walking down that gravel path, I battled with the idea that even if this was just for the moment, I knew I was walking away changed. Funny thing is, it wasn’t an afterglow at all. They reached out, we grew, we laughed, and cried. They fought for me as I fought for them. It was life, it was real, and messy, and beautiful and those women became sisters. For that I just don’t quite have the words.