This is a follow-up to my post on December 18, 2011. I’m writing it because I’ve had people ask me what an Affirmation Circle is, after I posted on Facebook ”I feel like I need a church camp affirmation circle experience right about now.” I’m writing this post to enlighten those who didn’t understand and to preserve the feeling as best I can so that I don’t forget it.
Monday was a bad day. Well, it actually started on Sunday, but I didn’t feel the impact until Monday morning.
Sunday I learned something about a close friend of mine that made me re-think my relationship with that person and forced me to evaluate my core values (still evaluating). I also felt a huge stab of betrayal, hurt, confusion and dread.
Then on Monday, I learned that my manager is retiring in January. Yay for him, not-so-yay for me: I’ve had 3 managers in 5 years and there’s almost always a long adjustment period when the new one steps in where I end up questioning if I’m right for this job, and if it’s right for me.
Mix those two together and it makes for a very, very emotional me. A very full-of-self-doubt me. A what-am-I-doing-wrong me.
I was very much in need of what our Interim Minister spoke of on Sunday: the gift of encouragement. But the more I thought about it, it wasn’t so much encouragement I needed. I needed reassurance that I was in the right place, that I was safe, that I was loved, that I was not the cause of the problem with my friend. I needed Affirmation.
At summer church camp, almost every small group held an Affirmation Circle at the end of the week. All the kids would sit in a circle, the lights were usually dimmed (or it was done during the nighttime small group time), and the Affirmation would start with one camper in the middle of the circle. One by one, each camper and counselor in that small group would touch the camper in the middle and say something affirming. “You are kind.” “You are a good friend.” “You have good insight.” “I like that you sat next to me even though you didn’t know who I was.” “You give good hugs.”
When you spend a week with 50+ kids your own age and quality small-group time with 10 of those kids, you get to know each other very well, very fast. You laugh with them, you cry with them, you fall down in front of them, you help them up. You eat with them, you sing with them, you share with them, you listen to them. A week of this almost guarantees that you will not only want to come back year after year, but that years, decades, after camp, you will still consider these kids (adults) to be your closest friends; you can only see them every 3 or 4 years and yet it’s like you’re just starting up a conversation where you left off when your cell phone dropped the call.
To have these kids, who have seen the very best of you and the very worst of you, lay their hands on you at the end of the shortest and longest week of your life and tell you, one at a time, that you are loved for who you are is probably one of the best feelings I have ever felt, second to the feeling of love that surges through you when your infant smiles at you with recognition for the first time. Affirmation from your peers after a physically and emotionally draining and uplifting week is the cherry on top of the experience that is church camp.
I did end up getting my Affirmation feeling Monday night; one of my best friends came over for wine and Mac & Cheese and she listened to me first and then she Affirmed me. She reminded me of who I am, where I’ve come from, where I’m going and what I’m doing. She touched me, my soul and my quivering heart.