There’s a crazy thing that happens when you tell stories around a campfire that most people never notice because they only attend one week of camp per year. But when you work at camp, and you’ve sat around hundreds of campfires, you start to see trends that might otherwise go undetected. For over 10 years I worked at a big Christian camp in California, and during those summers I sat around hundreds of “Victory Circle” type campfires. I looked forward to those times on Friday night because they were a great place to hear the campers share a brief testimony of what God had done in their lives during the previous five days.

And here’s where the fun always begins. At each and every Victory Circle I’ve ever attended, I’ve witnessed a phenomenon I like to call “Proclamation Escalation.” It starts with a cute kid stating something simple and inspirational like, “I want to thank God because He’s helped me to overcome my fears this week,” and then he sits down. Then the next camper feels a slight pressure to top the previous report. So he’ll say something like, “I want to thank God because He’s helped me overcome terrible fears all year long.”

This is quickly followed by a girl who stands to say, “My whole life I’ve been scared of being lost in the forest, but this week God helped me overcome it.” Not to be outdone, the next camper brings a report of actually being lost in the forest. Followed by a kid’s testimony of being hunted in a forest by cannibals. Followed by a report of being abducted by cannibal aliens. Followed by a report of being involved in a clandestine government cover-up of extraterrestrial dietary habits. Followed by a tear-filled confession by someone who is now so intent on besting the previous testimonial that he has to publicly admit that he and his entire family ARE ACTUALLY from outer space. At which point the camp counselor has to interject, and remind the campers that this whole time was meant to be a moment of reflection on what God has done in our lives, and maybe we’ve gotten a little off track?

Stories Around a Campfire

In the heat of the moment, I’ve seen kids around campfires tell the most outlandish and unbelievable fabrications in an effort to impress the crowd with an awesome testimony. I believe this happens because our kids feel like the truth isn’t flashy or exciting enough. But the reality of what God has truly done for us in Christ puts tall tales of cannibals and aliens to shame!

These days, I’m doing my best to instill in my 13-year-old son a sense of awe and wonder in the reality of what Jesus has done for him that will overwhelm any pressure he might feel to have to personally perform for his peers. I’m teaching him that his identity is rooted in Christ’s opinion of him rather than in his own estimation, or the perceptions of others. As it says in Jeremiah 9:24, “but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” (ESV).

In life, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for healthy competition. Thankfully, because of the unstoppable story of Jesus and His life-giving work on our behalf, testimony time around the campfire isn’t one of them!