Even when I’m sinking like a rock

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The rain pelted the canvas of my large two-person tent.

What should have been a comforting sound lulling me to sleep instead only helped keep me awake. At age 8, I was already battling the insomnia that comes with being unable to shut off my thoughts, dismiss my worries, or become comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.

I was at a Boy Scout camp in Northeast Mississippi. It was a great campground and I loved so much of my few days there. But I also struggled, if I’m going to be truthful.

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I had not spent much time overnight away from family and close friends, so this was a big adjustment. Although a few of my fellow scouts and I were friends, we didn’t really know each other outside of the troop, and I was not great at striking up new friendships.

My tent-mate got sick or injured the first day we were there — I don’t remember what exactly happened — and was sent home. So I had the two bunks in our tent to myself. It was a fairly big tent, with a pallet floor and Army-style folding cots. I had privacy and silence. Except for the rain, and the bugs, and whatever else was making all those rustling noises.

I have always been a poor swimmer. We had mandatory swim times each day. Really. Mandatory. And those of us who could not swim or couldn’t swim well were relegated to the shallow side of the pier, where a “lifeguard” taught us how to hold our breath and float, and not much else.

I still remember his reassurances of, “You’re fine,” as I sank toward the bottom of the lake, its three-foot depth seeming like Jules Verne’s 10,000 leagues. Well, I think he said, “You’re fine.” Seems like it was more, “Yoooorrr figggalludddd” as the water enveloped my boulder-heavy head.

Thankfully today, I can swim just as well as I could back then. In the words of Bob Seger (kind of), I swim “like a rock.”

Maybe I was worried about the next day’s swim time and that’s why I couldn’t sleep. Maybe I was anxious about the upcoming sign language and map reading competitions, or maybe I was worried that I wasn’t as good as everyone else at … everything else. That sounds about right for what I thought back then.

Finally, I got up and walked as quietly as I could to the latrine to see if that visit would help. On the way back, I remember standing outside my tent and looking up through the raindrops toward the sky.

I don’t remember clouds, but I do remember seeing the moon and a couple of stars. I could see the dark outlines of pine trees standing tall against the night sky. It was just me and God awake, I thought. And that actually made me feel a lot better.

I did make new friends that week, and I accomplished some things — like high marks in the map reading and sign language competitions — and bought my first pocket knife with my own money. By the time I got home, I was very glad I had gone.

Even when my mind and fears wanted to take something that should be comforting and turn it into greater anxiety, God used it to remind me that I was not alone, in the best kind of way. He was right there with me all the time.

Even when I’m sinking like a rock.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.