Given the state of our day-to-day lives, especially within such a divided American society, we often can feel that this is the worst time ever of mankind’s history. Despite the tragedies we read about in history, we find it difficult to believe that any peoples or generations before ours could possibly have had it so hard. This is often also our mindset when we experience personal tragedies, health challenges, death of a loved one, as we may think no one else could possibly suffer as much as we are suffering.
It is possible these are “those times” when all will end as we know it and we will be with our Creator. I surely can’t say. It definitely has felt like that at times. And yet, when I really think about previous generations and cataclysmic events, my guess is that for those who lived during those times, they, too, may have felt the world was coming to an end. We just have difficulty truly empathizing in the deepest sense with our ancestors to be able to recognize the commonality of our human experiences. Reading about these events in books, or even hearing firsthand stories from our grandparents and great grandparents still does not engage us viscerally as do our own personal observations and experiences.
This week, as I am blessed to be at Camp Or L’Dor, I was thinking of the very difficult times that have framed these young peoples’ world views. Although the teens were not yet born at the time of 9/11, most of the counselors and young staff were alive then even if quite small. Our young peoples’ years since that tragic day have not been the easiest societally with heightened security measures as part of daily life, financial crises, mass shootings, climate change, societal instability, divisiveness on so many issues, intrusive social media, all of this in addition to the typical challenges facing teens of every generation. And they haven’t yet lived long enough to feel this could be merely a cycle.
For some of us, our earliest childhood memories include drills to hide under our school desks should there be a nuclear bomb dropped which we felt meant the end of the world. We lived through leader assassinations and great societal upheavals, including the ones in our more recent experiences. The longer timeline, however, for some of us helps to put the more difficult times in perspective for we have experienced the pendulum extremes swing back, and have enjoyed (comparatively) the quiet times in the middle.
The challenges are different for each generation, and yet, they follow similar patterns, giving each generation the ability to make the same or different choices than those made by their predecessors. Mankind’s journey is just that, cyclical and extreme, the pendulum often swinging harshly from one extreme to the other, each society in time being offered multiple opportunities to make the walk easier, or harder than experienced by prior generations.
This is the 14th Camp Or L’Dor session. Sid and I have been here each year. As I look at the new, and often same faces, attending, I am struck by the similarity every year. These precious young people come to camp, some anxious to come, some anxious to leave (at first), but all beautiful young souls seeking something to help them become who they are to be, framed by the times within which they live and by their own personal experiences. This year as in previous years, they arrive from many different places and perspectives, and with varied expectations. This is just the beginning of camp so I can’t report on any transformations yet but, as in past years, I am very optimistic.
As our campers disconnect from the secular and tune into life here, as they eat together, hike together, study together, pray together, play together, and journal each day and evening, our teens are able to strip away that which separates them from God. Over these remaining ten days, the pressures they typically face personally in their social circles, and societally, fade as they are given the opportunity to connect to HaShem in ways not otherwise possible, all amplified through the presence of the exquisite natural surroundings of the Poconos that frame the entire experience. As these young Messianic Jewish teens come together from many places they feel part of something bigger, less isolated, especially for those who come from areas that do not have a vibrant Messianic Jewish community.
As I look at these beautiful young faces of our teens and counselors, I see the new beginnings we are given in every generation to walk closer with Yeshua, with our Creator. As the camp experience develops, nothing in the past will drag these young people down for they will shed those entrapments here at camp. This year’s curriculum – Made in His Image – is based on how God sees each of us, how He loves us, how He sees the real us and still loves us. This message permeates every prayer session, every service, every song, every activity, to fortify our youth in that important lesson, the one that sustains all of us no matter what. We will help each young person see himself or herself as God sees them, not as they may have seen themselves before their time this summer at Camp Or L’Dor.
What a blessing that all of us are given opportunities to see life through fresh eyes, through His eyes, our eyes renewed by His Love, time and time again, generation after generation, each of us able to come closer to our Abba with new chances to have the blinders to His Love removed.
You don’t have to be a teenager to try this at home. It’s not only safe, but encouraged! You, too, will be transformed as you allow yourself to see you as He sees you, with abounding, unending, love.