‘How Much of My Story Am I Supposed to Share?’

The camp director’s wife rolled her eyes and said, “Well, that’s up to you to decide.”

My full testimony, I thought, might have a shock value similar to the story a man from the kitchen staff told to the new campers about putting a gun to his head and hearing a voice say, “I love you.” I wondered what kind of shocks they were willing to accept. Did they believe strippers could be saved?

Some jobs are water, and some are wine. Some evaporate without a trace, and some leave a stain.

The Bible studies were segregated by gender, so I went to the women’s Bible study and told them that I was lonely, that I needed a mentor or someone I could talk to about my spiritual path. They listened with wide eyes, then closed them and prayed that I would find someone. By “someone,” they meant someone else.

In the lonely vertigo, I found Jesus. Every morning, I sneaked into the back of the log chapel, raised my hand in the air and sang love songs to Jesus. I stood in the last pew, separated from the campers, bouncing my baby if she was awake or, if she was asleep in the reclined stroller, praying that the praise would not wake her. Along with the girls and boys in tie-dyed T-shirts and shaggy hair, I sang quietly over an electronic accompaniment, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.”

It worked. The eyes of my heart opened, and they wept. My heart ached, and all of it — the isolation, the anonymity, the worry, the pain of seeing but never being seen as I pushed the stroller from road to forest to road, swatting horse flies that dived at my head, even the shock that this life had settled over me like a blanket and smothered my spark — all of it I attributed to Jesus.

I was sad because I had sinned. I was lonely because I was cut off from God. Every morning I stood at the back of the chapel and sang, “Here I am to worship,” one hand reaching for the stained glass.

If I could humble myself enough to take Jesus into my heart, to die to this world and be reborn as a pure, sinless ray of light, the resurrected me would be a gossamer membrane illuminated like a lantern whose radiance is uneclipsed by an immolated moth carcass.

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