I've been a pretty ardent follower and promoter of developing meaningful relationships with a few men and participation in men's groups in my own spiritual and personal development. It's not an easy path walking with oneself or with others and there will be many learning moments of pain, disappointment, challenge, offense and opportunity for forgiveness, grace and in time, the development of hard earned wisdom.
There are no perfect men or men's groups but throwing in on a few sacred circles is worth the investment in my experience.
"To be a complete man means to have the passions obedient to the will and the will offered to God," C.S. Lewis once said.
I recently participated in a weekend camping event up at Priest Lake, Idaho for men from three churches called: ManKamp. I invited a handful of men from our church that I knew needed an opportunity to get away, connect with God in nature — a few other men and their own hearts. I was blessed to experience the kind of weekend that produced moments and stories that we will share with our grandchildren.
Part of the joy of the event was being able to share it with men whom you truly consider brothers and that I knew they were sucking the marrow out of the same experiences. Shared passions facilitate greater possibilities of bonding on levels that go below the surface of typical interpersonal encounters. Each man has to find his tribe, language and rituals that create space for the divine and the human soul to touch, enkindle and pass to one another. It's not easy finding and cultivating such circles of relationships but it is worth the work.
This work is especially tough in today's highly connected, but under communicative, world. We are immersed in multiple streams of responsibilities and often our own souls get starved in feeding the needs of others we love, work with and do life around. Many men are unconsciously depressed or disconnected from anything that truly touches the inner man in meaningful ways. They are dead or numb and speechless about what matters most to them or unable to weave anything worthy of saying because life has stole the breath out of them.
Some men are drowning in escapism, addiction and the never ending pursuit of achievement at the expense of relationships and healthy inner lives. The tension is critical and anger or self destructive impulses from danger junkie activity or morally cancerous dabblings suck the joy of life out of the heart of many men. Broken homes, marriages and souls are all around us and no amount of beer, food, sex or technology can mask the grave being dug with their own hands.
Getting away with men who are seeking to care for one another's souls is critical to the health and wellbeing of men. My work with men may seem trivial to some eyes but when you see the look of resurrection in a man's face or hear true joy escape his lips in a moment of pure laughter, you will never doubt the power of God in time, place and togetherness. The need for getting away is critical to unplugging, listening and hearing what is needful at co tested seasons of life.
There's an old story about an archer who was giving a monk a hard time because he would take so many breaks walking in the mountains.
"Sir," said the Monk, "please pull back your bow." The archer did and the monk told him to hold it... hold it... hold it... until the archer said at last, "But if I leave tension in my bow all the time, it will break."
"Precisely," said the monk.
I've used a few questions in our men's work that help guide us to confront ourselves and listen to our souls. I share these questions with the hope that you will spend time with yourself and a few other men in discovering the answers or the paths towards a more robust experience of modern manhood.
Who have you been, who are you and who are you becoming?
How has spirituality, faith or God, been at the center of that growth?
How have relationships with men been part of that catalyst and how have they not? What would you change?
What do you wish you could tell your 20-30-40-50 year-old self, from this point in your life?
What do you wish you could tell your sons about the current challenges of life at your vantage point in the journey?
Blessings on you friend,
may God help you find Him,
and your brothers.