It was one of those mornings where I have to admit that getting out of bed to leave for church was extremely challenging. It was rainy and gray, and there was a chill in the air that made you just want to pull the covers back up over your head.
I got up and left anyway – of course – and I had a wonderful morning at St. Columba’s Church in Middletown. The rain continued, which didn’t damper my excitement about being with the fine people of that parish, but it did leave me looking forward to heading home after the service to pull on my ECC sweats.
I’ve probably been wearing my camp sweats a little too often lately. It’s the benefit of doing some of my work from home, and being in the North again during a crisp fall. For at least a small period of time every day I curl up on the couch clad in Episcopal Conference Center gear – my gray sweatpants and my old green Counselor sweatshirt. My husband probably wishes I would at least alternate to a different pair of sweatpants on some days, but I just can’t get enough of my this particular pair. They are THE best sweatpants ever – not even remotely flattering but totally comfortable. When I have them on it feels like all is right with the world.
While I was thinking about my change of clothes during the tail end of the church service this morning, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that it is in my ECC apparel that I am most comfortable. Because growing up I was almost always my most comfortable at ECC. Not clothing-wise, obviously, but at camp I found a way to be comfortable in my own skin.
During the time between services today I had a great conversation with several of the members of the parish over coffee, and we briefly talked about the chaplain position open at St. George’s High School here in Middletown. I commented that I hope they get someone great for the job because I really think our teenagers need pastoral care and the presence of someone who can really walk with them through this time in their lives. There were some questions from the group about that, and I shared honestly what I have heard lately from some of the teenagers that I work and serve with. I hear them saying that it is difficult to keep up with their peers, and that they feel pressure to wear the right clothes and look the right way. They don’t tell me this part, but it’s my opinion that Facebook doesn’t always help with those struggles, because it provides us the opportunity to present an “edited” version of ourselves. Which leads to, as my mother says, the bad habit of comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. And while most of us wrestle with that impossible comparison, I think it’s particularly hard for young people.
That’s what makes our ministry at ECC so important. Because I also hear from the teens I work with – over and over again – that they find the very best version of themselves at camp. They tell me that they find a second home there, and that it’s a place where they always feel loved by God and their peers. They tell me that at camp they discover that they are people of value, with gifts and talents that are worth sharing. They are comfortable in their own skin at ECC, just as I was as a young person (and still am today!).
I did come home and pull on my sweats, and I will continue to do that on a regular basis, if not daily. When I do, I’ll remember what a gift that community is and has been to me and to so many people that I know. My comfortable clothing will remind me that I learned to be comfortable with who I am, which helped me to realize who I could become.
In the meantime my continued prayer for the young people that I work with – and for all of us – is that we will stop comparing ourselves to others and start being comfortable in our own skin, just as God created us to be.