Yesterday we had another “wildman” Saturday retreat here at Canaan’s Rest. Since our place is a “prayer house” we do not have a large space for overnights. We can hold up to 8 to 10. So day retreats for a larger group work out best. There were 11 of us yesterday. Many have been to most of the wildman retreats. Yesterday we had two new guys. It was a good mix of regulars and new-comers. The energy and commitment makes the spiritual dynamic significant. I always come away deeply encouraged by what God can do with a group of men, wanting change. These are men who want to go below the surface. I keep learning new things each time we meet.
I want to share one new insight that I came to me as I experienced the dynamic of a “Wildman” retreat. Remember I have said in previous blogs, that men are going to have to get together in committed groups in the days to come, if they are going to find their masculine soul. The culture will be a hinderence, with its confused and even negative messages. The church, in many cases, has proven to be unreliable in giving “soul care” to men. The feminine voice can help only to a degree. What is needed is the “community voice” of other males.
The word that came to me as we met, was the word “thaw.” As men shared their stories of faith coming from their deep masculine soul, men in the group could identity with the stories. It gave men permission to risk sharing, what Thomas Keating calls the “undigested emotional material” that is “warehoused in the body in the form of afflictive emotions such as grief, shame, humiliation, anger, discouragement, loneliness, desolation and the sense of rejection.” Notice Father Keating calls this material “afflictive emotions.” They are “warehoused” inside, effective our whole body. The “tiger” in the tank of many men are the “afflictive emotions that need to be released from the inner “warehouse.” The cry of their hearts is “how can God help me to change?” A “band of brothers” can help with the birthing process in which the pain is acknowledged and brought forth
When the “thawing” comes to a group of men, you can almost feel a sense of relief in the air, as men realize they are not alone and unique with their deep, hidden stories of defeat, failure and shame. Our wildmen gatherings have a strong component that is similiar to AA meetings in which we, “admit that we are powerless over our sin and that our lives have become unmangeable.” As a man begins to experience a “thawing” of his soul, he can begin to admit his “dark side” to a group of other men. The awareness that it is 0.k. to do so and to experience loving acceptance in the inner struggle bring a new freedom for men. They come to the awareness that they are not alone, but they are is the company of wildmen” who share a similiar story and are on the same journey
I thought of the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:2 as I reflected on the thawing effect. “Always be humble and gentle, be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” For any man reading this blog, I strongly encourage you to find a group of men, who are both “humble and gentle.” In such a context there can be foundations laid for “space” to be cultivate an honesty about what is going on in the soul. For it is when men make “allowance” for each other’s faults, that such space is created. Henri Nowen calls it “hospitality.” When this is done in love among brothers, there can be a remarkable thawing affect. Rmember men, you will not thraw out on your own. Your wife knows that you need thawing, but she can’t help, in many cases.