So I had a “first” in these last couple of weeks.
I had the privilege of attending a Sportsmen’s Retreat at Hidden Acres Christian Center. Our preaching pastor was asked to speak to a bunch of dudes about being manly in Jesus and he hit the bullseye. The uniqueness of this being a first for me was not attending a men’s conference, it was the fact that it was for hunters and sportsmen. I have never hunted in my life!
Camo. Bows. Rifles. Handguns.
Bullets. Flying. Everywhere.
And my personal favorite…tannerite, an exploding target used for firearm practice. I was walking with my pastor across the camp when this explosion happened that was so loud that my knee-jerk reaction caused him to laugh. Maybe it was the fetal-position look that my body had. All I knew was that it sounded like a bomb going off and it caught me off guard, to say the least.
I had never been to an event organized for this type of group. There were 650+ men and boys gathered to do what they loved to do and be able to be challenged in their perspective of what it means to be a godly man. And big news: I won a door prize and got my very first piece of camo, a sweet hat made by some manufacturer that I had never heard of, with plenty of camouflage to keep me well hidden within my locale.
Among the antlers for sale, shooting competitions, and all-things-hunting, what did stand out was all the men just doing stuff together. Talking in groups, shooting targets, sharing meals, and singing loud during the services. It was like they were not used to doing this with frequency and now were “breathing” once again.
Men lack close friendships…and it is not good
What is it about dudes and not hanging out together? In our western mindset, guys have learned (incorrectly) to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” and live out their deepest struggles and conflicts…in isolation. We have been deceived that no one understands or we are too embarrassed to disclose our brokenness.
I know this because I have lived there. And I have seen the folly of my ways.
In the book Men’s Secret Ways, Patrick Means talks about men and the lack of close confidants with other men. Men with whom they can share weaknesses, struggles, and fears.
More than a third of the men indicate they have no one playing that role in their lives. And of the remainder who say they do have close male friends, a large percentage identify men from their past – from college days or the military – or they mention men who live on the other side of the country. Less than 25% of the Christian men I’ve surveyed have a close male friend actively involved in their lives right now. And for pastors the percentage is even smaller – less than 5 percent.
I admit in my past I have tended toward this mindset and tried to “solo it” as a guy. What a disaster that overflowed into my marriage and the nurturing of my kids.
I am thankful to God though that He has placed men in my life that have intentionally pursued depth of relationship and got me comfortable about talking about the fact that life is not always “I’m good.” or “Doing fine.” We need community…true biblical community. I define biblical community simply as doing life together to more fully express the gospel and live out our identity in Jesus.
It is not hard – just get together
As I was traveling back from this men’s conference with my preaching pastor, I expressed the fact that I appreciated how much he gets guys together to hang out. I used to have the faulty mindset that all conversations had to end up in some theological conversation. I am now seeing that guys first just need trust built over time so they feel comfortable being transparent about their life at some point down the road.
I have dudes with whom I fat-tire bike. And many rides are with my preaching pastor. He invites new riders with the intent that they just hang out and get to know each other. Getting to know each other over time builds trust. And building trust allows guys to speak with depth about how things really are going in their lives. I cannot speed it up, but I can foster it by being with guys and showing myself as someone who cares about them.
I went backpacking with a group of guys one summer who normally are caught up in the race of life. What laughs we had! And they are still talking about that trip almost two summers ago! Why? Because spending all day together being out in the woods and just hanging out led to more trust being built. And we now have more depth of conversation about things that matter because of that time together.
Guys, this is a callout to you. This is a callout to me. If we continue in our surface-only-don’t-ask-how-I-am-really-doing type relationships, we will continue to fail far worse than we have to. I will always be broken, but I have a few guys around me who know me and my struggles. I have guys with whom I talk about brokenness in my life and how to get past my own sinful tendencies. And I am pointed to Jesus. But each is one that I do things with.
How I need that! How I must have that.
So my plea today is to catch the burden of community with other men. Hang out. Do something together. Work. Play. It really does not matter. The whole point is that guys typically do not really open up until they sniff out trust on the other side of the relationship.
Be that guy. Initiate.