Five Life Lessons I Learned on a Camping Trip: Lesson #3 Getting Dirty Is Inevitable

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One of the first things I noticed about the campground we were at was how absolutely beautiful it was. Everywhere you looked it was stately trees, or views of the deceptively large mountains, all set under the dramatic sky, where the clouds and the sun took turns chasing each other for the duration of our stay. The second thing I noticed was the dump station. Nestled into a tiny corner towards the back of the grounds, it seemed like such an odd contrast to the beauty surrounding it, a blight on the landscape. It made me giggle a little too. Well, if you have to put your poo somewhere, may as well be somewhere with a view, I reasoned.

We’d had an eventful three days visiting family and going on adventures, and by the end of our last day I was a cranky mess. I remember the moment I threw the broom. In preparation for packing the next morning, my husband had very efficiently moved everyone’s bags to one of the back pop outs, and made a nice neat pile on top of them of other assorted things…and the one bag we needed to get our daughter ready for bed was on the bottom…at bath and bedtime…with four melting children and a cranky mama. The poor man. I probably resembled a shrew as I grumbled to myself, angrily pulling things out willy nilly, searching for the bag we needed.

As I searched, I threw things behind me with little care for where they landed, and by the time I got to the broom (why the broom was there I couldn’t tell you, I said he’s efficient), I had worked myself up into quite a little rage fest. In a great impression of Shrek, I growled and turned and chucked the broom across the tiny interior of our trailer…right towards where our boys were sitting, staring wide-eyed at the monster who had replaced their mother. It narrowly missed Ryan, who justifiably reprimanded me: “MOM! You almost hit me!” You’d think that would have stopped me in my monster tracks, but I snapped something comforting like “You’re fine!” and carried on my rampage.

Thankfully, Franz stepped in and took charge, sending me to a time out in the tiny bathroom for a shower, while he took care of the kids and settled them in for the night. My heart was heavy as I remembered everything I had said and done. As I stood in the small cubicle, conserving as much water as I could between scrubbing, I felt like it wasn’t just the mud from our earlier walk I was washing off. The harsh words I had spoken, the criticisms, poor reactions, all the bad choices from the day, they all clung to my skin and made me feel dirty. They weighed me down and made me feel like the worst. You’re a bad mom, was the inevitable thought. When are you ever going to get this right? But nearly as soon as those thoughts had stopped echoing through my mind, a truer, clearer voice spoke into the darkness: You are not a bad mom, you are human. My grace is sufficient for you. What Lord?? Did you not just witness that temper tantrum?

I was struck again by the image of the dump station, just hovering at the edge of the beauty. But in that moment, instead of seeing it as outside the landscape, I saw it as part of it. It was inside the borders, just another facet to see and recognize, and accept. So it is, I believe, with us. We are the beautiful landscape, with so many variables to what makes us each unique and lovely and creative…but we all also have the inevitable parts of us that just aren’t as pretty. The parts that are best hidden underground with a tightly sealed lid.

But what if instead of trying to ignore or hide them, we accepted them as part of our landscape? Accepted that we will always be flawed, broken and imperfect, but that we can also be beautiful? This isn’t an either/or type of situation. This doesn’t let us off the hook for poor decisions or transgressions, but maybe it gives us a little bit of perspective on how to bounce back from them. How to still view ourselves in a kind way, rather than beating ourselves up for our humanity. Acknowledge that we will fail regularly, but that it does not in turn make us failures.

When I stepped out of the shower, I felt clean in every sense of the word. I had asked my Savior for forgiveness, and shortly after acquiring pants, I sought it from my husband and children as well. I’m still a work in progress, but little by little, God is opening that small lid, and shining light down into those darker, less than pleasant places of my heart.

On our first night at the campground we were greeted by a spectacular sight. The way the sunlight was touching the trees was so beautiful, the whole park had an ethereal look to it. A storm had just blown through, and the air was fresh and clean, with that undefinable quality that candle companies have been trying to recreate for years. I marveled in that moment how beautiful the contrast was with the light against the dark; how some of the trees glowed in the fading sunlight, while others were only just barely lit at the top. Yet they all reached their limbs up towards the sky anyways, ever growing, slowly changing and becoming something better, bigger than they were before. I like to think we are like that. I really like to think God sees us like that. The light will eventually reach all of those parts of us that need to be changed. He’s just not in as much of a hurry as we are. Also, as the saying goes “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.” So there’s that…

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phillipians 1:6 ESV

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