Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Have you ever tried to relive a memory?
As I grow older, I find myself looking back a bit more than usual. Thinking back on the days when my children were little…snuggles, vacations, holidays, summers…those moments I would love to relive, to experience once again. I also spend more time thinking back to my childhood. For a few years now I’ve thought a lot about my summers at Camp Mary Atkinson, a Girl Scout camp I enjoyed for three summers during my childhood.
This past Memorial Day, Michael and I were traveling back from a weekend at Harmony House Inn in New Bern, NC. We had just pulled into Selma when I said, “The Girl Scout camp I went to is in Selma. I would love to go by there one day.” My husband seriously loves to make me happy. And he is just the laid-back kind of person who is never in such a big hurry that he can’t enjoy a spur-of-the-moment change in plans. After a few adjustments to the Garmin and the discovery that Camp Mary Atkinson was less than a mile off our route, I found myself riding through the campgrounds after a thirty-seven year absence.
We drove through Raccoon Loft. This was where I spent two weeks in 1973 and two weeks in 1974. The tents were the same as I remembered! There’s no way they could have been the same tents, but everything looked the same….only smaller. I was bewildered at how close all of the tents were to each other. And as an 11 year old, the trek to the bathroom (at night with a flashlight and a fear that a bear would eat me) seemed so much farther!
Next we pulled into the Lady’s Slipper unit where I stayed in 1975. Here we got out and walked around a bit, me trying to piece together where “my tent” was and who my roommates had been. Once again the realization that my memory of the size of things was way off!
Lady’s Slipper Unit
Our last stop was at the lake where campers went swimming and canoeing. Michael stood at the edge of the woods where we came in while I walked all the way out to the water and onto the dock. Sweet memories! I learned to swim here! I remembered the red, white, and blue swim caps we wore to identify our swimming levels. I remembered buddy checks and racing to grab my buddy’s hand. I remembered the big campfire we had on our last night and setting sail on the water my milk carton sailboat lit up with a single candle. And crying. Crying because we all knew that our time together was ending, and when you’re 13, that’s a big deal.
Down by the Lake
I looked around a bit more then stopped once again by the dock. “Lord, help me rest in this moment and take in the sights and sounds.” I stood there, trying to capture something permanently…. something. I nearly held my breath. I looked and listened for a few more minutes then turned to leave.
That’s when I had the most significant moment of our whole weekend.
Michael was still standing by the woods, arms crossed, relaxed, a knowing smile a bit crooked on his face. Walking towards him, I suddenly understood the tug-of-war between the past and the future. The here-and-now is a walk of faith I take each day. I don’t put my trust in a past that is at best a dim memory that must be explored and sorted out to have meaning. That something that I was trying to recapture wasn’t a memory…it was a feeling. Memories will never bring back the feelings of those moments. It’s fun and heartwarming to reminisce, but I don’t need faith to believe my camp days were wonderful.
When Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13-14 to forget what lies behind, surely he didn’t expect us to be able to snap our fingers and put things out of our minds. The word forget more clearly means to neglect. He’s telling us not to sit around dwelling on the past! We need to get up and move forward, walk out our faith daily. Stop dwelling on past mistakes, stop nursing past hurts, stop begrudging past disappointments! Faith is knowing that God will use all of our failures to help someone else. Faith is trusting that our pain will ultimately be used for our good. Faith is believing that people can change.
Yes, it was fun to reminisce, but I didn’t leave feeling any differently about my camp days. However, I did have a renewed appreciation for my husband and an anticipation of hope for my future. The only feeling I carried away from Camp Mary Atkinson was a feeling of being tremendously blessed!