I spent this past weekend at St. Scholastica monastery in Duluth helping with a week-end retreat for folks enrolled in a spiritual direction program. I am one of the facilitators of the program. This is my third year in helping. It has been one of those surprises of God’s grace and favor as I journey with Him during these retirement years. I am amazed to find myself with such a diverse group of seekers after God. There are many with deep questions of faith prompted by much mistrust in the institutional church. I hear may stories of hurt and misunderstanding. Yet these folks have a hunger to know God.
These pilgrims have blest me in our heartfelt dialogue about faith. I am amazed that God can use me in such a circumstance, when I consider my more narrow and defensive past. In reflecting on the weekend I thought of this passage in Psalms 124:7, “We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” Many of these pilgrims feel like they have been put in a “church box” that they have spent most of their adult life trying find freedom. I am learning that only a loving, caring presence will help them brake free. I am finding that honest, heartfelt questions, will lead seekers to the truth. Being a loving presence can be much more helpful then answers.
I mention this experience in this wildman post, to speak an encouraging word to the men who are reading this blog. There are many men who have been wounded by their church background, to the point of not being able to trust many of the present expressions of the contemporary Christianity. My sincere advice to any man who feels he is still trying to brake out of a “religious box” is to keep your mind and heart fixed on Jesus. Remember he said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Remember a wildman is willing to listen to his heart as well as use his mind. Ask for grace and mercy to face your disappointments, angers, and frustrations with your religious past. Don’t let the failure of others keep you from the freedom that Christ has for you.
Paul encourages us with these words, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (Gal. 5:1 – The Message). When a man is willing to face the pain and disappointment of his religious past, while standing in the light of Jesus Christ, where he can experience love and acceptance for who he is as a man, something is loosed in a man. He is able to shed “immature and childish” forms of belief and practice, by learning to go forth with the Lord Jesus at his side. He is a man, coming out of the shadows of his false religious self, braking free from a “religious box” and breathing the fresh air of life in the spirit. He is becoming a man who can stand straight and erect before the Lord, knowing more of who is in Christ, rather then being identified by his false religious past. So men, don’t let the box keep you from expressing your true self in Christ.