I am not what you would call an outdoorsy person. In fact, I once saw a t-shirt that was emblazoned with the word Indoorsy across the front, and decided whomever created that shirt was my long lost best friend. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to go for a walk on a nice day or go explore mountain trails that end at waterfalls. When I visited Hawaii as a teenager, I was one of the first to jump off the banana boat to try to find a dolphin to swim with. I loved wandering all over the gardens at the Biltmore Estate. But, generally speaking, there are many things in nature that incite anxiety in me. So much anxiety that all I end up doing is looking around for the things that frighten me instead of being able to enjoy the beauty of Heavenly Father’s creations.
Mainly, I am afraid of snakes. And unfortunately for me, they exist in abundance in North Carolina. Especially the 6 foot long, 6 inches around and super speedy variety. Oh, and it should also be noted that my husband was intent on purchasing a lot that backs up to the woods. And, our neighborhood was built on a farm field. Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m surrounded by snakes. One of the only things that truly terrifies me is all around me.
Now that you have this background about my fears and discomfort with the great outdoors, you’ll understand my surprise when I was asked to be the Camp Leader for the youth girls at church last summer. I said yes because I love those young women and any chance to hang out with them is fun. I also said yes because I know the Lord has a purpose when He tries to push us out of our comfort zone. I love Psalm 110:10:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth forever.
When the Lord asks us to do something hard, we can be assured that there is a lesson He wants us to learn or someone who we need to help. If we are willing to get uncomfortable by following His path, He promises to give us further knowledge.
I experienced so much anxiety as I prepared for that week of camp. There were many prayers for calm to be sent my way. And quite honestly, there were many prayers to not find a snake curled up in my cabin. I didn’t go so far as to pray to not see one, but I forget sometimes that God knows all my thoughts. I guess those were silent prayers.
Camp ended up being a wonderful experience. Three days in and I had not seen one pesky snake even though others at the campsite had. But, that third night, I ventured off to the showers alone. Up until that point, the only time I’d been alone was in the middle of the day – when I could SEE. This adventure to the showers took place at night while everyone was getting ready to go to sleep. Quite honestly, I was having physical symptoms of an anxiety attack – racing heart, shortness of breath, etc. But, I powered on knowing it wasn’t too long of a walk and I was on a somewhat clean, albeit sandy, trail. With each step I took, I felt the urge to start running but couldn’t because, well, sand and flip flops don’t really lend themselves to running.
In the midst of my frantic worry, the thought went through my mind “Just follow the light of your flashlight and put one foot in front of the other.” My anxiety faded away and I did just that. I did not see a snake that entire week at camp. I know it sounds silly to some, but this was the key to me being able to perform my duties as an adult leader and enjoy my camp experience.
There were several other people who stumbled across those slithery, creepy creatures that week. But, even with how much I was running all over that campsite, the Lord granted me that blessing. I’m certain it’s because He had things He needed me to do, people He needed me to comfort and help. He knew that if I had been distracted by my own fears, I might have missed the Spirit whisper to go find a certain young woman who needed me to show up at just the right moment.
On top of that blessing, however, I learned an important lesson about following the light and not veering off course. For all I know, there was a snake right next to me on my walk to the showers that night. The Spirit reminded me that by following the Lord, I would get to my destination without incident.
But more importantly, He was very clearly reminding me that He knows me and He cares about me. D&C 6:16 reads,
...there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.
I don’t think anyone at that camp knew just how frightened I was by the prospect of snakes. I did my best to keep it to myself and just power through. But, Heavenly Father knew. He knew that I was terrified. He also knew that I wanted to be there with the young women. He knew that I wanted to learn whatever lessons He needed me to that week. Most importantly, however, He wanted me to know that He loves me and is willing to calm my fears. Even when it’s about something like snakes.