You never know what you are going to get when a dozen men take off for a weekend together in the name of Jesus, especially if their wives load the vehicles with gourmet meals, plus caffeine and sugar.
This is what some of the men from our church did last weekend. We drove an hour, crossing the state line into Virginia, and spent the weekend at Fairy Stone State Park. Obviously, this is a real man’s hang out. This group has roughed it before, but this time we had the park’s palatial lodge, complete with actual beds, a full kitchen, gas logs, and three showers. Just outside the front door was the all-important campfire circle.
The theme for our weekend was, “I can. I Will. I MUST!” As we promoted the event, the slogan sounded gimmicky to me. However, two men from our church, Keith Street and Guy Andrews, gathered us around the fire and helped us dive in to the Scriptures and we came out as changed men.
We discovered that it is easy for us to believe in each other. We see each other’s strengths, potential, and opportunities. We know that these men have what it takes. Naturally, we can say with confidence, “You can do it!” But we all need to learn that: “I can do it. I have what it takes.” We learned that believing in one another inspires us to believe in ourselves. In Christ we can accomplish everything God calls us to do. But we need the support, the encouragement, and the help from our brothers in Christ. One man said, “I never again have to do anything solo.” We learned that I can, but we also learned that we need each other in the process.
Esau failed to value his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34) in part because he was alone. Where were his hunting partners? They could have warned Esau against the foolish bargain. Why were the two twins apparent enemies? They were living in isolation, not in community. Their stories would have been entirely different if they had loved and supported one another. Through community, we realize that we really can do what God has equipped us to do. It takes faith to believe that God can use us to accomplish big things.
Learning to say I can energizes us with the possibilities. For some, that energy of imagining captivates our minds, and we get stuck there. I can becomes I could if I would. Ever since Adam watched the serpent deceive his wife, men have tended toward passivity. We sit back and let life happen to us. Sinful human nature makes this very easy.
But we have to move beyond the possibilities of I can to the determination of I will. When we believe that we have what it takes, we have the courage to step up and make something happen. We make commitments to ourselves and ask our brothers to hold us accountable. We invoked the wisdom of Yoda on this. One man around the fire challenged a teenager to try to pick up a chair. The teen cooperatively stood and picked up his empty chair. “No,” the man said, “You picked it up. I said try to pick it up, not pick it up.” Suddenly, Yoda’s words made sense to me: “Either do or do not. There is no ‘try.’”
God calls us to be men of action. He wants us to swim upstream, to go against the flow, to do the difficult things. Our retreat leader reminded us that you cannot float upstream. It takes effort, will, action, and engagement to achieve anything valuable. Many of us have been floating and only dreaming of going upstream. This was our wake-up call. The opposite of passive is active. We are called to action.
Finally, we tackled I MUST! Once we believe we can, and we then take action, God reveals to us our calling. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). Once we are moved to action, we can pursue those good works, and follow God’s leadership into His purpose for our lives.
These twelve men are different now—a good different. We e-mail and call each other more. We pray together more. We ask about the things that matter more. We work less on hiding and more on connecting. We are more effective leaders in our families. We are experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. It has been only five days since we returned from our weekend retreat, but by God’s grace we will never go back to passivity.
I would say that my life was changed by a slogan. But really, my life was and is changed by the Spirit of God, and He does His work as I share my life with friends.