The fullness of Your grace is here with me
The richness of Your beauty’s all I see
The brightness of Your glory has arrived
In Your presence God, I’m completely satisfied.
For you, I sing, I dance
Rejoice in this divine romance
Lift my heart and my hands
To show my love, to show my love.
The opening lyrics to Phil Wickham’s song “Divine Romance” slipped through the speakers of the Lodge and into my heart during the fourth of eleven summers I spent at Camp Timberline. I remember hearing those lyrics and thinking “yes, that’s it!” The song put into words what I’d felt since the first day I walked through Camp Timberline’s gates, but had been unable to voice until now: a feeling that somehow, this summer camp cradled in the arms of mighty mountains, was home.
It’s been thirteen years since my first summer at Camp Timberline. A few particular memories stand out among the colorful, wonderful blur of summers spent as a camper, Shifter, and counselor: the feeling of the Silencer stealing all the breath in my lungs for the first time. Telling my parents on my first Closing Day that I was sorry, because I’d had so much fun I hadn’t missed them at all. Singing around the campfire late into the night with an eclectic, wonderful family of Shifters and finding peace before the uncertainty of starting college. Stargazing on the tennis courts, standing in awe of the sun shining on Twin Sisters from the Back Porch, Chaco tans, Crazy Creek chairs, sunflower seeds, Nalgene water bottles covered in stickers. I remember all these things that make Camp Timberline the Disneyland of summer camps. And I remember the things that make this place is so much more than that.
My first summer at Camp Timberline, I asked Jesus into my heart. I’d known him my whole life, but seeing God through the lens of Camp Timberline made him more real and more known to me than any Sunday School ever could. And I realized, even as an nine year old camper who had so much more to learn about her faith, that a life spent living for Jesus was a life I wanted to lead. It was Camp Timberline that created this foundation of faith and Camp Timberline that helped cultivate my growing relationship with God each summer.
As the summers came and went, I never tired of packing a week’s worth of clothing into my dad’s old red duffle, each item meticulously labeled with an “E.B.” in black Sharpie. Nor did the hour-long drive to Estes Park through the Big Thompson Canyon ever cease to make me giddy with every curve pretending to be the last and the anticipation of what the following week at Camp Timberline had in store. Some years I’d drive through the gates with more baggage than just a suitcase. In those summers, I learned to lean on my camp friends and counselors who loved me through the trials I’d endured down the mountain. Every year I’d leave a little tanner, a little hoarser, and a hopefully a little wiser; heartbroken to leave the place that had become home, but heart overflowing with new stories, new friends, and more love for the Lord than I’d thought possible.
My last summer on staff, I decided to publically declare the decision I’d made my first summer at Camp Timberline and be baptized in the lake. On the last day of camp, standing in the water with the wonderful, lion-hearted Bill Darrough and surrounded by my family and fellow counselors that had become family, I once again gave my life to Jesus. It was the best experience of my life.
Yet I would not have found myself submerged in the “refreshing” waters of Rocky Mountain runoff actively declaring the decision I’d made more than a decade earlier to follow Christ, without each summer at Camp Timberline teaching me more about what a life looked like living for God. I would not be the person I am today without Camp Timberline giving me the freedom to become more myself.
There’s a quote by Timothy Keller that says this: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” If the opening lyrics of “Divine Romance” describe what it feels like to spend a summer at Camp Timberline, then this quote explains the beautiful mission this place has practiced since its opening summer. The heart of Camp Timberline is not to be just another fun way to spend a summer, but to make every person who walks through their gates experience the joy of being known and loved by God. It is a mission it lives out with every part of its existence.
I’ve tried many times to accurately explain the role this place has played in my life, but the truth is I will never be able to fully express the power of Camp Timberline. It is like no place else, a place where Heaven tangibly and joyfully meets earth. It is, in one word, home. And for the role it has played in my life, I will forever be grateful.
- Emily Beard