Today, my family and I are at the camper's hide-away at Lake Merwin. It sits above a sleepy town of two small stores, a restaurant and single gas station. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and tussle of typical life for awhile. It feels like we are a thousand miles from home, but actually it is only a short, hour-long drive away.
I am looking out the window of our good friends' small cabin with a deck twice its size, overlooking jade-green water and a jaw dropping view of Mt. St. Helens. It is so close it feels like I could practically take a big, leaping jump and land on it. This place is special because of its unbelievable natural beauty, but mostly, because of the people we hang out with when we are here.
This trip has become one of those lovely traditions we hold dear and look forward to each Spring. It always feels like coming home in a way. Here, we get to be with our home team, so to speak. We all sit around the large campfire pit at the opening and closing of each day talking, laughing, overdoing the s’mores, and spending slowed time with people that make our life’s merry go-around an extra fun ride.
One of the couples holds my husband’s best man from our wedding and his wife and son. The other couple have two boys. We met them in our late-twenties and they have felt like family to us all from the start. As a group, we combine to make an extended clan of eleven. Sometimes magic happens when God puts just the right mix together – and this group is just that.
One of the best things about being here is watching our son Ethan. As soon as we pull into the driveway, he jumps out of the RV and runs up to the other boys to complete the group I affectionately have coined as “The Wolfpack”, his own little home team. They spot him coming and all loudly yelp out; “Ethan’s here!!” And, as young boys do, they start running around and bouncing, talking all at once, their excitement impossible to contain. The gang is back together. It is like Ethan has just hit the winning home run and they are celebrating, ecstatic.
In general, our son has always felt on the outside of things. Like the kid allowed on the team but stuck on the bench. He mentions often he has “no friends”. We remind him of these boys and how much they love him and for a moment, he remembers, but it never lasts long.
He feels a part of something great when we are here, not only included but wanted. The pack collectively howls; “Hey guys! Let’s go on a bike ride!” That is all it takes and they are suddenly in motion as one, gathering helmets and bikes and hitting the trail fast and furious. And, like a small band of military brothers, no one is left behind. As his mama, this makes my heart grow larger each time I witness it. He is “just one of the boys” and it brings joy I can’t really find words for.
I want to bottle up how he feels here and bring it back with us. Actually, I’d love to fill huge, 100-gallon tanks with it so it never runs out. I want to be able to turn their spigots at a whim, opening the valves, and anoint him in this oil of gladness each time he feels left out or different or unseen.
But this is just my heart-wish, I know this is not possible. The only container we can fill is our memory bank, making withdrawals occasionally when we want and need to remember those good things once again. I worry he will too easily slip back into his negative self-thoughts as we drive away in a few short days, forgetting who he is here – A valuable part of the pack.
Proverbs 18:24: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”.
This verse soaks in and softens my skepticism that can overwhelm my heart. Ethan has these reliable friends. This rises my hope up, like yeast to dough, offering fullness in my spirit. And, I am again reminded that he also has the most reliable Friend of all friends in Christ. The One who never abandons, never excludes, never pushes away, never cuts us from the team. He is the lover of my son’s soul and mind and big, and sometimes broken heart. Sigh. Thank You Lord for being his life-long, reliable friend.
My prayer is that my sweet son would understand just how amazing he is, how wanted he is, and how delightful he is each day and in each place, with whomever he is with. Don’t we all want to feel this way? When you forget, when I forget, let us go back the place of truth:
“…He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will renew you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17)
Just like the 7th-inning stretch song at every baseball game, He will "...root, root, root for the home team!" Cheering us on as we go. I will remind Ethan of this, I will remind myself too. And, until we come back to this very special place with these very special people - we will try and remember to listen each day to Lord's ecstatic song over us - hearing it and feeling His gladness that we are on His home team.
Remember whose team you play for - the Captain will never bench you, and better yet, always see you as a valuable and important player.
Question: Who is your home team? Thank God for this amazing gift. Remember Him, who is always cheering you on in eternal-joy!