Even though the males are with me at the annual Men’s Retreat camping trip at Lake Placid and the women are having their own service in Davie, I’ll still write a story this week and share about this experience.
For the first 30 years of my life, I camped twice. Once was as a boy scout in freezing cold weather during a snow storm, which was miserable. My troop was lost in the woods all day and no one was looking for us. Memorable, but miserable. The other time was with my family. I just remember it was one disaster after another, including torrential rain. So camping was not an enjoyable experience. My wife and I tried going on a romantic camp out after we moved to Florida. I’m not sure where it was, but it was somewhere west, on some saltwater marsh. It was nice until about 5pm and it was like someone let a million mosquitos out all at the same time. They literally chased us into the tent. It sounded like a swam of bees outside we didn’t even want to venture out to go to the bathroom. The mosquitos that got in tormented us.
The Men’s Retreat is hybrid camping, I guess. You’re sharing sleeping quarters, but you have air conditioning. There’s a campfire, but they feed you full meals. There are lots of outdoor activities, but also showers. This is my kind of camping. No setting up tents or loading an entire van full of things needed to spend a few days outside.
Jose Ferrer from Orlando spoke about lasting friendships. John 15:12 calls us to love one another as Jesus loved his “friends”. Proverbs 18:24 says that a man of many companions comes to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. 1 Sam 18:1-4 tells of a story of David’s and Jonathan’s deep friendship. That is the covenant that binds us as friends and brothers. They admired one another and helped one another. Whether you’re a loner or a initiator, bonding can still happen as long as one initiates. Vulnerability is key to building these covenant relationships.
So far I’ve spent time having deep conversations with others. I so admire men that have overcome adversity. An hour ago I had a long talk with someone whose wife was unfaithful and walked away from God and the marriage. He never discusses any anger or faithlessness despite this trial. His example is truly inspiring and I’ve never told him that, but I’m going to this weekend.
Last night we played poker, and I saw men playing card games and dominos, and chess, and just having fun conversations. Many went to bed after 2am and didn’t sleep much because they were enjoying the great fellowship. I had the pleasure of being knocked out of the Texas Hold’em tournament to Connor and Luke (6th graders) on 2 hands in a row… All of these times bond us and build covenant relationships. During our morning session today, Jesse Rutan, who recently was baptized, shared about how this early covenant with the brothers he met are the reasons he drew close to God. Jose followed with “that this covenant does not only lead us to Christ, but more importantly, keep us IN Christ”. We learned about being accountable to one another and resolving conflicts quickly. Tony asked the question… Is it worth it to sacrifice and make time for these relationships? Your actions will determine what the answer to this question is. This whole weekend was all about creating these friendships and bonds that will get us to “well done good and faithful servant”… Are we willing to make that effort? Do we truly want growth and change? Are the relationships in our lives producing these changes? Things holding us back include selfishness, pride, and laziness. Shouldn’t we expect more from each other?
Looking at David’s and Jonathan’s friendship, we see growth in their relationship. They helped each other to change to become stronger in areas they were weak in. They made a forever covenant with each other. Another benefit is that our wisdom and experience is passed on to the next generation. Don’t wait until our sin is at a crisis level, but proactive discipline is the key to overcoming temptation. If we know one another’s heart, we can detour those crises.