I don’t have any scientific proof because the SCL lab is still under construction, but there’s something about campfires that makes it easier to confess our secrets. I’m not sure if it’s that we all smell like mesquite or the smoke or the warmth of a big blaze or just being far away from home, but something happens when you sit Christians around a campfire. Especially teenagers.
I remember one retreat when we were kind of scattered around a campfire starting to unload our stuff verbally. We were admitting some really small stuff like, “I kissed so and so” or “I swear and cuss too much.” All the sudden, one of my friends admitted to burning down an old house in our town. No one lived in it at the time and it was accidental, but he had still burned it down. When he said it, it just kind of hung there until he said his next confession which was even bigger than the house burning. We all started to fidget nervously with pine cones, which is the only thing you can really do in situations like that, until it was time to go to bed.
But those experiences have taught me a few things:
1. We’re getting a fire pit.
When my two daughters are teenagers, we’re going to have a fire pit. When I sense they are distant I’m just going to say, “Hey, what’s that outside? Whoa a campfire, let’s have dinner out there tonight.”
2. I’m going to start carrying a zippo.
From here on out if you and I start having a conversation and you’re trying to tell me something serious, I’ll pull out my zippo lighter and strike it up for you. It will kind of be like being at a Poison concert during the song “Every Rose has it’s Thorn” but maybe even that mini flame will make you feel comfortable enough to open up.
3. The fire game.
Please don’t ever do this and then sue for me all my SCL nickels, but when I was in youth group our favorite game to play was “will it burn.” This is the game where you see if your friend’s shoes will burn, if someone’s CD they shouldn’t be listening to will burn, if anything that is not combustible will in effect melt in the fire. I don’t think our youth minister liked this game, but if at least one person on a retreat does not lose an eyebrow or return home with one less sneaker, I’m not sure you’ve been on one.