ONE HOLY NIGHT
We were hiding behind a pew in an outdoors chapel built on a hillside overlooking the Guadalupe River in southeast Texas. My rebel accomplice and I were smoking a cigarette breaking the biggest “no-no” of the camp. Campers are not allowed to smoke. At age sixteen we had been chosen to be leaders of the younger girls at camp and enforcers of the rules. Camp each year was my “heaven on earth” and I was bitter and angry it was drawing to a close that summer.
This night’s smoke tasted disgusting, however the dark excitement of rebellion seemed dangerously adventurous. I remember noticing the cross and yet choosing not to see it. We were careful to stay hidden in the dark, believing we could get away with it, as our reputation at the camp had been painstakingly built over the last four summers.
We were both athletes, and the counselors admired us. After giving us many trophies and awards, the owners of the camp depended on us to be examples to the other girls. The younger girls looked up to us and here we were crouched in the dark except for the glow of our smokes and the strangely eerie shine of the simple wooden cross as the moon reflected its presence.
Logically, this made no sense. Coming from a chaotic troubled home I sensed God’s presence and love at this place. But there were so many questions swirling in my mind that summer. Was God actually real? I was having doubts. Did He really love me unconditionally? Then why would He allow so much pain in my home life? Were there really consequences to breaking these rules? Discipline at home was rarely enforced. Would He still love me anyway? I need to know.
Some spying counselors busted us that night, and I was relieved. Odd I know but I needed answers.
The consequences humbled me in front of the campers I was in charge of. I was denied the felt tribe letter that was given to practically everyone as a reward for obeying the rules of the camp. I expected that but I did not expect to hear of the hurt and disappointment my friends and acquaintances felt for my moral failure that night. Their expressions of concern and sadness affected me deeply.
One of the signs in the dining hall read “If Life hands you lemons, make lemonade”. As the wisdom in that saying spoke to me I decided I wanted to confess to the whole camp the misery that my one act of rebellion caused me to use myself as an example of what not to do. I asked for forgiveness and pled for them to obey the carefully laid out rules of the camp that were for our safety and protection.
Forty years later my eyes still well up with tears remembering all God taught me through this ordeal. I often wish I could be buried one day under that cross on Chapel hill. The glow on the cross that night I believe was more than the moon’s rays. I knew what the cross stood for but my attitude was one of a mocking taunting test to God. If You are really there, then show me. He did.
The truth of the shining cross that night broke through my fears, anger, hurt and bitterness and the Truth answered all the unspoken questions of my heart. I learned that the pull of sin and rebellion is a lifelong struggle with my flesh and the enemy of my soul. I was shocked to find out the impact my choices had on those I love and those who had believed in me. It broke me to hear their words of disappointment. I learned humility comes from brokenness as I shared my sin with others
But most of all I learned of God’s nature of forgiveness and grace when the very next summer I was awarded a special trophy for being a model camper. That grace and mercy He gives me when I least deserve it freezes time for me in awestruck wonder. I thank Him for that one Holy night on a hill far away. There stood an old rugged cross.
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