Post Bible Camp Bonfire

Flashback Friday

I attended a one-week Bible camp as a child every summer for a decade or so. It didn't matter if I wanted to go or not—I went. While we did traditional "camp" things during the day, evenings culminated in intensely emotional services in which the speaker would beg those attending to change their ways. That meant deleting previous temptations and, on the advisement of leadership, literally burning anything that could lead one to stray.

The summer of my sixteenth year, I talked my best friend into attending with me. We both came home "radically saved," and had the urgent need to purge all of the sinful things from our life. What better way to do that than a bonfire?

We built the fire at night, in her front yard. In went our secular CD's—Hole, Nirvana, Counting Crows—basically all of the music that had kept me alive during the tenth grade, the most depressing year of my life. But the music had to go, along with piles of books that we'd spent our summer reading, and some beloved films that I still treasure to this day (I'm talking to you, Dazed and Confused.)

It wasn't just replaceable items that went into that fire (I've since re-purchased all of the aforementioned albums)—I also threw in hundreds of pages of my writing. I'd spent a good majority of that summer penning a novel, which I had completed before leaving for camp. But because of its supernatural content, I was led to believe that its very existence would send me straight to hell. And I couldn't have that. So I watched it burn, every last page, not realizing I'd mourn its loss nearly twenty years later.

While I've held onto a considerable amount of writing from my childhood (I have a giant Rubbermaid container full of it), there's still plenty that never made it to my adult life. It was nothing more than scribbles on a page, stories that most would consider worthless, undeveloped, immature—but loved all the same by their creator.

The loss of these works is one of my deepest regrets. I didn't burn them because I thought it was a good idea, but because someone else had told me that's what I needed to do to get right with God. Taking advisement from those in leadership isn't always a bad thing, but it's important to remember that the people making the rules are just that—people. Humans, who are capable of making mistakes. Humans, who might not have empathy for your particular situation. Humans, who might go on to change their minds.

I was raised to do what I was told without question. Now I question everything. And I write what I want without remorse.