Friday, October 19, 2012

You Can't Float Upstream

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.

That’s what our men did last weekend.  We drove an hour, crossing the state line into Virginia, and spent the weekend at Fairy Stone State Park.  Obviously a real man’s hang out.  This group has roughed it before, but this time we had the palatial park lodge building, complete with actual beds, a full kitchen, gas logs, and three showers.  Just outside the front door sat the all important campfire circle.

The theme for our weekend was, “I can.  I Will.  I MUST!”  As we promoted the event, the slogan just sounded gimmicky to me.  But two men in our church, Keith Street and Guy Andrews, gathered us around the fire and helped us dive into the scriptures and come out as changed men.

We discovered that it is easy for us to believe in each other.  We see each others’ 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.”  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, the help from our brothers.  One man said, “I never again have to do anything solo.”  We learned that I can, but we learned that we need each other in the process. 

Esau failed to value his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34) partly 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 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 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 it real 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 can’t 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 take action, God reveals to us our calling.  “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do”  (Ephesians 2:10).  Once we are moved to action, we can pursue those good works, and follow God’s leadership into his purpose for our lives.

Our men are different now.  A good different.  We email 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 leading better in our families.  We are experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s only been five days, 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 is changed by the Spirit of God, and he does his work as I share my life with friends.