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Surprised by a Pilgrimage

Revisiting a place brimming with memories sparks reflection on God's faithfulness.

A recent impromptu visit to my childhood camp surprised me. Almost everything looked the same after forty-one years: the little tuck shop where I lined up daily for licorice, the camp office where I picked up letters from home, the dock where we knelt in prayer before canoe trips, and Campfire Point where squeals of laughter over silly skits blended with songs of praise to a God who clearly was Creator of the beauty around us, as well as the Creator of all joy. Even the campers looked much the same. Many of them could have been me—a chubby, little, first-time camper of nine, bursting with health and enthusiasm.

God had been faithful to me when I forgot Him for decades …

I had felt safe at camp because it had seemed to me that God lived there. On the campgrounds I was not afraid of the dark; the quilt of bright stars was a simple confirmation of God's presence. With camp staff on a first-name basis with "the Lord," I never doubted God's existence. It wasn't difficult to ask God into my life forever.

The problem came when I returned home. I tried to stir up the faith that came so easily at camp, but my enthusiasm eventually faded in the glare of city lights. My faith in God was dependent on a place and the people who abided there. It was difficult to experience the person of God in places that denied Him and among people who ignored Him. This would take time—and the faithfulness of God.

Now years later, as I wandered around the familiar campgrounds, I felt like one of the Israelites recalling their escape from slavery by God's power. Despite their continuous complaining in the desert and their sinful idolatry, God had faithfully loved them. In the same way, God had been faithful to me when I forgot Him for decades, when I didn't understand doctrine, and when I failed to live up to my own standards—never mind His.

As Christians our faith must not remain dependent on a place or a person. Instead we must depend on the security of our covenant with God—not because of our own faith (it will waiver) and not because of our works (they will fail). Our security comes from the character of God—His faithfulness. When it is rooted in this, we can say with confidence: "If we are faithless he always remains faithful. He cannot deny his own nature" (2 Timothy 2:13).

Gail Reid is a member of The United Church of Canada. She and her family attend Runnymede United Church in Toronto.

Originally published in Fellowship Magazine, September 1996.




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