When my wife and I started dating the first thing she told me about was her church camp, Camp Sychar. Every time she talked to me about it, it just seemed a little odd. I mean, I would respond by saying, “Oh, that sounds really interesting.” I could never let on that I thought it was just a little weird because I knew she loved it so much.
When I was finally able to go to Camp Sychar she was excited. To be honest I was a little nervous. Everyone knew Caitlin and I was just the boyfriend tagging along.
I thought, finally I’m going understand this whole camp thing and it won’t seem so odd. I thought the only reason why I thought it was odd was that I had never been to camp.
I was wrong. It’s still odd to me. People come and stay in this one plot of land for 10 days. They go to two different church services every day for 10 days. The middle school and high school students do the dishes. People take lukewarm showers and every year their sad to leave and can’t wait to come back next year to do it all over again.
The weird thing was, that first summer I found myself loving Camp Sychar too. I even found myself telling other people how great it was, and I saw the same cock-eyed look that I use to give Caitlin when she told me a story about Camp Sychar, they too thought it was odd and weird.
Is camp odd? Yes! Is it great? Yes! Is it a place where I can’t wait to go to every summer? Absolutely! Can I explain it to people without to sounding odd and cultish? Absolutely not!
Christianity is a lot like Camp Sychar. As a youth pastor, it was my job to tell people about Jesus. When you’re telling people who already believe in Jesus about Jesus it never seems weird. They get it. It’s like Caitlin telling someone who has gone to Camp Sychar their whole life how great camp is. They will nod their head in agreement and say, “I know it’s the best 10 days of the year.”
When I’ve talked with people who don’t do the whole Jesus thing I have gotten looks similar to the one I gave Caitlin when she first told me about Camp Sychar, “So what you’re telling me is that there was this perfect guy named Jesus that died for everyone even though he didn’t do anything wrong. He was then buried and then magically appeared to people three days later. Rrriigghhtt!?”
It’s hard, nearly impossible to put into words the ongoing story of Jesus without sounding crazy, but maybe that’s the point. It makes sense and at the same time doesn’t make any sense at all.
There are things like Jesus and Camp Sychar that when put into words just seem insane, but when you see it when you participate and experience this thing that is so difficult to explain it changes everything. It’s no longer the odd, weird thing that someone told you about that one time. It morphs and changes, it becomes real and tangible.
The reason things like camp and Jesus are difficult to articulate is that we are trying to describe a feeling that we experience. Describing a feeling I’ve experience is difficult because it just comes off as odd.
I used to want to tell people about Jesus in a way that wasn’t odd and weird, but now I’ve realized that I don’t how to do that, in fact, I don’t know if it’s even possible to do that. Instead, I invite people into what I’m currently experiencing. Sometimes the best way to tell people about who Jesus is by shutting up and letting them participate, experience, and see Jesus for themselves.