The relationships I’ve built through the BelPres Men’s Retreat are what I value most. God and Jesus are all about relationships: with them first, through the Holy Spirit, and then with other people. The retreat has enabled me to meet new guys and develop relationships that might not otherwise have occurred. Over the past five years in particular I’ve gotten to know at least twenty guys at a different level connecting with them in church and outside of church.
In particular, I’ve been able to build open and transparent relationships with two men- each younger and each with a different story. To be honest, initially I misjudged one guy’s personality and his emotional and spiritual depth…another head smack for me about judging others. I decided to reach out to him to get to know him better. The other guy and I connected in a discussion group at the retreat and in that group we openly shared about personal issues. We decided to stay in touch and meet occasionally. Over the past three years with many coffees, lunches and other events with each guy we’ve been able to discover more what is in our hearts and minds and to counsel one another on day to day practical issues and personal challenges. I feel comfortable in laying out my weaknesses and in being a mentor or advisor when appropriate. And since I’m older, I’m able to offer up comments from the perspective of someone who’s been through similar experiences.
Men are not readily open to being approachable and vulnerable. At the retreat and in these follow up conversations I’ve found the walls come down and the opening for meaningful relationships. I’m blessed by having these men in my life and, dare I say it…I truly love them as brothers. I think God delights in this.
Over many years of attending the men’s retreat I’ve found it has impacted me in a very real way. Three things have been evident and these are what I believe are some of what God intends for me. First, that I build meaningful, caring and loving relationships with other guys; second, that I get away from the hectic pace of everyday life to experience his creation in a peaceful setting; and third, that I be open to new teaching and find ways to apply this to my whole life.
It’s common knowledge, or street wisdom, that we need to take a break and refresh periodically. And yet, most men don’t take time to pause. When I’m at the retreat I’m able to find rest and refreshment. The chance to do absolutely nothing in the free time is something I cherish…no agenda, no must-do list. There’s something very peaceful for me when looking over the quiet waters of the lake and into the foothills of the Cascades. God is telling me to slow, down, take a deep breath of the fresh forest air and revel in his creation. He’s given us a world to enjoy and I don’t take it for granted. I usually come home from the weekend in a much more relaxed and thoughtful state…something my wife appreciates!
The teaching comes in two ways for me: through the lecture sessions and in the follow up small group discussions. I find that the chance to have a central topic with focused teaching geared toward men and their everyday issues, and open conversations in small groups is invaluable. The deep teaching and the perspectives of other men allow me to grow in my faith. In the small group discussions, the chance to pray with and for other men in a safe place is a privilege and a blessing. It’s opened up my heart to the struggles of others, made me appreciate all that God has done for me and helped me to develop a regular prayer life.
The annual Men’s Retreat is coming up over the first weekend of June. And yes, I’m going…again. I’m sure that God is calling me once again to take time out of my ‘normal life’ and enjoy what he has in store for me at the 2016 Men’s Retreat. I’ll look forward to checking out in order to check in with him and other men.