This week our guest author is Marlee Nicholson who has been serving on our summer staff. In addition to being a Day Camp Leader this summer, she has also served as a Senior Counselor, in the kitchen at Okoboji, and as a coordinator for our Junior Counselors in previous summers. As a Day Camp Leader, Marlee would lead a team of IOLBC summer staff as they did a Vacation Bible School type program at a church for the church's local community. Each week was a different team in a different town someplace in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, or Minnesota.
Hey there, I’m Marlee Nicholson and I served as a Day Camp Leader this summer at IOLBC. I led 9 day camps over the last few months, which involved a lot of phone calls, planning, ironing perler beads, counting kids, and chaos juggling; I could further explain, but in short, it involved a lot of doing. While I believe God called me to this work and it is important, He’s been teaching me a sweet and liberating truth in the midst of the chaos: that being is more important than doing.
During our staff training at the start of the summer, I was talking to a member of the program team at our sister camp, Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp. I was in the process of discerning some possible plans for my future and was seeking her advice when she shared with me an idea which really shifted my perspective: What if God just wants to BE with you? She shared an analogy of being in a meadow with Jesus. So often we are primarily concerned with picking just the right flowers, or the “right path”, but what if Jesus just wants to run around and play in the meadow with us?
A few weeks after this conversation, after I had shared this idea with several other coworkers and friends, I gave a message at a Saturday night worship service led by staff, for staff. The message was based on Zephaniah 3:17, which reads, “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT). This is one of those verses which reminds me of just how much God loves us. Think on this for a moment: God sings over you. He enjoys you. Not only does He love you extravagantly, He likes you! He is happy to be around you and spend time with you. He doesn’t need you, but He does want you. Your value does not come from the things you do or accomplish, but simply from being His child.
There is a quote, though I am unsure of the original author, which states “We are human beings, not human doings.” Personally, it is far too easy for me to fall into a “doing” mindset. I love to-do lists. I love getting things done and being productive. I love serving and helping others. I tend to feel better when I accomplish things and am fully prepared for whatever is upcoming. Unfortunately, this also seeps into my spiritual life. I want to do this Christian life “correctly,” as if that were even possible. I want to be good at it. I also tend to be quite hard on myself and struggle to give myself grace when I fail. In short, I’m a perfectionist. But God never expects perfection; He simply wants our hearts to be toward Him. In a conversation with a friend this summer, in which I was expressing frustration with myself for falling into an old sin habit, she told me that “doing something better doesn’t mean doing it perfectly”. Growth is a process requiring grace, both from God and from yourself toward yourself. The thing is, God often offers this grace much more freely than we do. Not that He wants us to be reckless, destructive, or sinful-- He just tends to be more gentle and better at forgiving us than we are.
There were multiple times this summer I was trying to juggle everything and attempting perfection; it quickly became overwhelming. I would say to Jesus with tears in my eyes, “I’m TRYING so hard!” His response was never “well try harder” or “you’re just not doing good enough.” It was more along the lines of, “that’s your problem. Stop trying and just be.” The fact that I fall short, fail, burn out, and struggle should not surprise me; I’m a weak human who far too often relies on her own strength.
One thing I tried this summer was changing the way I structured my God time. I, more or less, removed the structure. I took having an agenda, or a set format, out of the equation and tried to let myself spend time with God in whatever way it needed to look that day. Some days, part of my God time would consist of me lying on the ground, looking up, and breathing. The well-known 23rd Psalm became more literal to me, particularly the second verse: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams” (NLT). Not only does God allow me to rest in His presence with nothing required of me in that moment but to be, but He encourages it! Later in the Psalm it says, “You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings” (NLT). God anointing me to honor me? We’ve circled back to how crazy about us God is!
Is all of this to say that the work we do in service to God’s Kingdom is meaningless or that God isn’t pleased with it? Not at all. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT). The Bible also talks about receiving rewards for the good things we have done (Matthew 16:27, 2 Corinthians 5:10). God has plans for us, and there are certainly ways in which He calls and commissions us to serve Him. God called me to be a day camp leader at IOLBC this summer, and to do all the work that goes along with that role. But when I came to Him mid-summer, tired and overwhelmed, He led me to be, not to quit. He assured me that He sees my efforts and my heart. Doing is not inherently bad, it is just not where our value and worth come from. God created us to be in relationship with Him, not to do a relationship with Him. He made us human beings, not human doings.
At the end of this summer, I reaffirmed my baptism. Dan, the director of programs here at camp, was kind enough to be the one who performed the baptism and shared some words, partially based on Zephaniah 3:17. He said “The pressure is off. You don’t have to try to please God. He already takes incredible delight in you… You don’t have to earn His favor. You don’t have to earn His blessing. You don’t have to earn His love. He’s already super crazy about you. When He looks at you He sees His daughter. He sees someone He takes great delight in.” What freedom there is in God’s unconditional love and in the invitation to simply be.
- How often do you get caught up in the "doing" of your faith and neglect taking time to just be with God? How can you find value in taking the time to simply be with God?
- Do you find it odd that God delights in who you are? How often do you need to remind yourself of this truth?
- Want to dive into our summer theme for 2021? You can check out our blog series focusing on each of our 5 daily theme verses or our Bible study available online or through our BEYOND App (available in both the App Store and on Google Play by searching “IOLBC”).
- If you are interested in having a Day Camp Team come and help your church with a week long Vacation Bible School/Day Camp program, click HERE for more information or email our Day Camp Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.