The group started as an idea one of us had to gather a group of peers by vocation as a community fellowship that would be a life-long commitment to a relationship that entails both supporting each other in, and holding each other accountable to this covenant and all other covenants we engage in this life.
Ostensibly, you might look at this group and say how wonderful it is to be able to get away with a group of guys to rest, relax and perhaps even pray together once in a while. I can assure you that while these gathering are often both prayer-filled and restful, they are not "getaways" in any sense.
They are work as well as play.
Imagine taking the time, twice a year, to not only stare into your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual reflections...but to also invite 8 other people into that experience as well.
Now, do that over the course of a lifetime.
What can I tell you so far of the experience? It means real growth on all levels. It's not so much the truths we share about ourselves that have built trust, it has been the trust to face truths we would rather avoid or turn away from because they are too raw, real or ego-threatening.
When Jesus was with his disciples, he talked a lot about how to know God the Father through the Son. To know Jesus, and to be known by him, was to be on intimate terms not just with the Son of Man, but with God, overall. To be in relationship with Jesus was to be in a primary relationship with God. It is true intimacy with the One who creates, redeems and sustains all thing. When you take that practice into community with others, what do you find?
You find friends who can tell you the truth and sit with you while you struggle to hear it. You find friends who will hold you accountable to your life, and the relationships you enjoy and strive to sustain with spouses, partners, companions, co-workers. You find friends who will be there for you when you are at your best and when you are at your worst.
(our makeshift altar, prepared for Eucharist at this spring's retreat)
You find, I believe, what it means to be called on by Christ to model the kingdom he sought to proclaim to the world. Doing that on a "small" scale these past ten years has been a welcome goad for me as I struggle and strive to live into my vocations as a son of God, a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, a godfather, a priest, a leader, a teacher, a pastor, a friend.
It isn't easy. It is a blessing.
My prayer for you is that you take some time today to think on those soul-friends who love you, who both give and receive trust, who sit with you in truth, who pray with you in the night watches. It is not about perfection, or about being any more than you are. It is about trusting someone to accept you as God sees you, warts and all, and then help you share that acceptance with others to the glory of Christ.