Four summers of my life, my mother helped me pack a footlocker procured from the Army Surplus Store and I was loaded on to a bus with old friends and those who would become new friends for a couple of weeks at Camp Blue Haven. I loved those camp experiences for many reasons. And, to be honest, I detested some of those experiences.
I distinctly remember the bathroom facilities. Those weren’t on my “things I love about camp” list. Very little hot water for showers — probably because someone had figured out that hot water stunted the growth of whatever it was growing in the cracks in the shower floor. But the scarcity of hot water wasn’t the big thing. No, the big thing on my “things I hate about camp” list had to be the lack of stalls for the toilet. That’s a common practice in many pseudo-military encampments — even though Camp Blue Haven was far-removed from anything military. But to this day, I just don’t approve of “open seating.”
Now there was something in the bathroom I dearly loved. There was a small sign posted just above the urinal. I read it and laughed each time I stood there. It was such a great play on words — and utilitarian at the same time. Each word and each punctuation mark so cleverly placed.
Words to live by. I still think of them each time I . . . well, you know. I do try to suppress my laughter now since, in the absence of the sign, other patrons of public bathrooms wonder.
Well, very little of what I’ve written thus far is what prompted my thoughts of camp and my two great lists. Instead, it was a song I heard this morning.
The Christian camps of my youth were before the advent of what we would later call “Jesus songs.” We sang mostly the old hymns and we sang them a cappella. I loved those old hymns. So you might understand my concern when a new song appeared — literally pasted into the front cover of the old blue hymnal.
“O Lord My God” was “new” to me. In fact it had been copyrighted almost ten years earlier. But in my tribe of shape-note singers, it was new. And I didn’t like it. The range of notes was hard for me, I didn’t know the words by heart, and, irritatingly, those camp leaders thought we should sing it every time we gathered for . . . anything!
Indeed, this set of inspirational words set to an old Swedish folk melody, was on my “things I hate about camp” list. And you can imagine my horror when, on my return to civilization, I learned that all church people, everywhere, had been infected by the insatiable desire to sing this song. For years to come, I was in agony whenever the pitch pipe blew and our leader would launch into this tribute to “awesome wonder.”
But I realized today that, at some moment in my past, all changed. The shift probably occurred some years ago. I saw it today.
As I dressed for church this morning, I was listening to streaming music. I reached down to turn off the Pandora app and head out the door when the introductory notes of “O Lord My God” filtered through the speaker. I couldn’t turn it off. A rush of memories streamed through along with the song and I had this feeling of fulfillment and momentary communion with both God and the many blessings I’ve experienced through my life. And I let it play. And I let the experience sink deep within.
All of this from a song I once detested. All of this from words I didn’t fully understand. All of this because of the truth that we are works in progress and our thoughts and feelings are like clay in the hands of a gifted potter.
If you run up against something — or someone — you don’t really care for today, be patient. Some things might just grow on you. And you’ll be a better person for it.