I went on a men’s retreat this last weekend with my church. We did “men things” in the mountains. We were challenged to grow in our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. We sang songs together. We stood around a large fire in the dark and under the stars for no particular reason other than “fire!”.
At one point, I even took a nap.
It’s not as lame as it sounds, but it is as self-serving as it sounds. Does that make it wrong? No, I don’t think so. I think we all need to take time sometimes to separate ourselves from the main streams of life and forge new relationships both with one-another and with our creator. Over the years and the different church trips and retreats that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part-of, I’ve made life-long friendships with men who I otherwise probably would have never gotten to know. These men, in turn, have become strength and spiritual guidance for me over and over again. I am thankful for men’s retreats.
On this particular retreat, our guest speaker was quite gifted. I enjoyed his skills and his ability to draw-in focus. He had a style of vulnerability, authenticity, and clarity that few seem to really organize. His speaking techniques were obviously honed with thousands of hours of practice and years of spiritual devotion. I have nothing but great things to say about this guy. My primary complaining point today is about one of the stories he told:
Preachers and Speakers – will you please quit telling me fairy tale stories about these holy family reconciliations – particularly with your fathers – where you somehow finally connect with your lost dad relationship at the end, just before he dies… and maybe your dad even accepts Christ at your hands right before the end? I cannot tell you how humiliating and frustrating this is.
I don’t believe this is a reality for most of us. I’ve heard so many stories from great speakers that seem to go the same way. They all go something like this:
‘I once was at enmity with my Father, a non-believer (probably). A rough childhood (perhaps), maybe even abusive or neglectful or just broken? Right before he died, we somehow worked everything out… and it was like holy magic… he was saved and my heart was healed.’
I can’t deal with this. I want to hate you for this. When you talk about this, it makes me feel inadequate. Your stories used to give me hope, but all these years later as I hear them again and again, they just make me more angry and disappointed.
When I say “we” here I mean me… and you if you’re at all like me.
Do you have any idea how many years of crying, sleepless nights, and prayers of desperation we’ve been through? Do you know? Do you know how many times we’ve attempted this conversation with our father/mother/sister/brother – based on the model you gave us – only to fail miserable and receive even greater disappointment?
I guess – I mean – sure – it’s your testimony right… so go ahead and tell us your story. But please also tell us that it doesn’t always work out like that… and tell us how it’s going to be ok somehow even when it doesn’t work out. Tell us it’s going to somehow be ok when we don’t see our dad in Heaven or our heart never really fully heals from that LONG ago pain. Tell us that.
I believe that God can bring redemption to ANY relationship, no matter how broken. I believe fully in his power to heal completely.
I believe he won’t always do this, and probably not even sometimes.
I believe there are probably good reasons why he wouldn’t do this but those are things I don’t comprehend.
I believe in the thorn in my side.
I believe in the Love of my Christ.