I survived camp with the 5th grade. More than survived, I had a great time and so did the other 40 people from Saint John’s School. Camp Stevens was great – the counselors, the food, the accommodations; everything was top notch.
The students had three concerns – missing their electronics, the food, and being away from their families. That list is in order of importance. I told the kids that after a few hours at camp, they wouldn’t miss their electronics, the food will be good, and time will pass so fast they will hardly miss their home. They believed me on every point, except for their electronics. Our students couldn’t imagine being far away from their tablets, phones, game players, and televisions. How would they survive?
More than survive, they thrived at camp. One of the most moving experiences I had was when our small group of 12 kids, after hiking through the forest for hours, walked into an open field that measured more than 10 acres. With wide open eyes, they exclaimed they’d never seen beauty like that before. After a quick request for freedom, they ran out into the field and ran and ran and ran. Joyfully jumping into the air, they ran up the meadow to a massive black oak tree in the middle of the field at the crest of the ridge. From that tree, we could see the rugged hills of Julian and beyond.
These highly-scheduled, educated, and programmed kids suddenly found themselves in the middle of never-ending nature and beauty. They played and played and played – swinging and jumping off an old a dead tree, seeing how far they could run in the field before they fell down from laughing, and spending long moments observing a purple and yellow thistle plant that played temporary host to three honey bees. Not once did they miss iPads, Cheetos, or their favorite reality TV show. Nature was their true reality show.
This is how I imagine heaven. Kids are designed to play in nature. We try to get them to become young adults but that is simply an adaptation. Their nature is to laugh, run, swing from tree limbs, watch a line of ants, and lie on their backs and come up with silly names for puffy clouds that float by. We, as humans, have adapted to live in the 21st century. Yet, our core, our nature, our Imago Dei, is to be in connection with the Creator and to frolic in heaven. Maybe that is why Jesus said that only as children can we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Funny that heaven is as close as a 5th grader at camp.