In my childhood I went to many “church camps” where we did age appropriate things, sang songs where we clapped a lot, ran around like savages, painted ourselves with mud and fought each other with sticks for who would be the leader. I know that sounds like Lord of the Flies, and it definitely was. Kids were allowed to run around like that while adults drank cocktails, perched on rocking chairs, and pretended not to catch bemused glimpses of us in the nearby woods.
As a kid I always wanted to be a boy. From what I could see, boys had it all. No responsibilities, no expectations of decorum, no need to be quiet, or look nice, or hold back their wild spirits. As a girl, I had to have composure, sit with my legs crossed, wear a terribly impractical form of torture device called a dress, speak softly, and set the table for dinner. I wanted to fly from tree to tree shooting pretend guns, sword fighting, picking up snakes and bossing all the boys around to do my bidding. Some would say not much has changed.
Going to Shrine Mont felt like a little bit of a return to those halcyon days. We made crafts, we drew pictures, we sang songs and we sat in a circle talking. We showed each other something more of ourselves than we would if we had stayed home. Kids ran wild. We all got muddy. We all got wet. We hiked over rocks and up tall hills and we saw nothing but trees and fog for miles and miles. We got loud. We got real. We tried to pray. We let our minds wander and then we tried to bring them back to pray again. We prayed in so many ways, by being creative, being loud, being muddy, being FREE to be wild spirits. I think that God wants us to wander. Maybe the wandering really is the point.
Saturday afternoon. Intending to see the Shrine Cathedral for myself and walk some hills around the camp, a lone gentleman greeted me with warm expectation and exclaimed, “oh hi! Are you here for the history tour”? I looked around and saw it was only me he spoke to. Not wanting to disappoint him, I replied in my most convincing tone, “of course I am, wouldn’t miss it, can’t wait!” As he began his talk in the lower (and mercifully covered) chapel others began to trickle in. We listened for a while as the steady rain turned to drizzle, which allowed us to venture up the hill for the main attraction. My ears perked up when Grace the Plains was mentioned, but other than that I couldn’t tell you any of the information I heard. Walking with the group, I was in my own world. A cat appeared in the garden where we stood, and I was transfixed. The cat and I exchanged knowing glances. I approached, and he made tactical blows at my legs for several minutes, accepting ear scratches and side swipes from my damp hands. I turned to realize the group was now a quarter mile in the distance. I had been lost in a moment with a fellow creature. (If you must know, I made my apologies to Punkin and then ran to catch up, largely because they were headed for Virginia House which I knew had all day coffee).
Later that afternoon, I was alone on a muddy, rocky trail, and I found myself speaking out loud to God, or to Jesus, really. Like we were old friends but he couldn’t read my mind. Like any friend, he needed to be told. I didn’t have some great reawakening of my Christianity, or some grand epiphany or revelation. Frankly, I was slightly worried I had taken a wrong turn and a search party would have to locate me in the soggy morning. I just said what came to my mind, commenting on things I saw. I joked about possibly being lost. I imagined sticks were snakes. I imagined water was lava and played trying to avoid the rivulets forming on the trail. I noticed parts of my body that despite the rain remained dry and thanked God for my sturdy boots and good raincoat. There were patches of poison ivy to avoid. I wished I had brought my machete for several overgrown tracks. I cracked wise about becoming a legendary machete wielding lunatic lost in the mountains. Finally, I emerged from a thicket and there stood a car, a road and building. My adventure was over, and it was time to seek a warm fire and rejoin my clan.
I’ve always loved to wander. It makes me feel like anything is possible. I find my Jesus in those kinds of moments.
-Dr. Lori Lind, Minister of Music
I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.
— J.R.R Tolkien, The Riddle of Strider from The Fellowship of The Ring