I've never been on a men's retreat, let alone a "Men's Advance." I didn't know what to expect from a massive sausagefest at my old camp stomping grounds of Aldersgate. I still remember the eight poles lining the downslope path that I slalomed while at junior high church camp many years ago, getting my sleeve caught on the last one and getting swung around like a tether ball. So many things change.....
After two different sessions, we had something called "church groups," where the men from their respective churches gathered as a smaller group to discuss the topic our Italian-descendant depicted. It was a very vulnerable situation from where I was, because I've never seen many of the men from our church in a vulnerable position before. Some of them revealed things, scars from their past, I would never have known in any normal situation. Others had expressions of solemn and reflective complacency that spoke more volumes through their silence.
During free time activities, I saw more still from these men, like how they act in situations they enjoy, or lack the enjoyment. How they react when it rains and hails while attempting a 15-foot putt. Or their meticulous personalities becoming magnified in a mysterious nameless billiard ball/bumper/bowling game. Or what subjects arise in simple conversations, reflecting the passions of these men's souls. What about the simple nature of how much the volume of consumed food, especially prime rib and baby back rib meat that fell off the bone, spoke about a man's appetite; or his values?
I learned much about these men, and my respect quadrupled. I think about what many of them have gone through in life, sometimes thinking that they've wasted much of it pursuing vain existences. I don't believe that. I don't believe a single moment in these men's lives was a waste. I think their hindsight affects young guns like myself, or the teenage boys I'm watching grow up. I believe that their experience of life, both good and bad, has and holds a purpose.
These men aren't the stereotypical "macho" men our society demands. Many of them are meek, while others are immature, like myself. Some are strong in personality, while others' actions speak louder than words. I believe all of them have lives that cannot be regretted. At all.
Each of them has a story to share. Each of them need an ear to hear. They are real men.