I went on a retreat for men last weekend called Emmaus. The weekend is based on the Scripture (beginning in Luke 24:13) about two men who were traveling to Emmaus. They met Jesus and were talking to Him without even knowing it. When Jesus finally reveals Himself to them, he disappears. The idea is that we would travel together down this same road and Jesus would reveal Himself to us.
Anyway, it was a great retreat. It was really awkward at first being with a bunch of people you don’t know, but it doesn’t take long to begin getting into the routine. Some of the best parts of the experience are supposed to be surprises so I won’t spoil it for anyone, but those were certainly the most memorable moments for me. I have worked in youth ministry for over 20 years now and have been a part of putting things like this together, but it’s been a really long time since I was a participant – since I was just able to sit back and listen and receive from the Lord. It was a refreshing change of pace. Someone asked to sponsor me for Emmaus about 15 years ago and it never seemed to work out as far as a date. I also never made it much of a priority because I had heard about the life-changing experiences that others were having. I knew that I had already given my life to Christ and was already living out my faith, and so I was afraid my experience wouldn’t live up to what they wanted it to be for me. Anyway, after all these years, I have now had the Emmaus experience. I was right – it wasn’t a huge deal for me, but it was certainly a good experience which allowed me to just focus on Him a bit. How could that ever be a bad experience?
The other part I really enjoyed was the discussions around the table. I sat with a bunch of really creative and fun guys. (David, Everett, Scott, Mike, and JJ) I was able to see God in new ways through their eyes and gained perspectives that I would never have seen before. We also had quite a bit of fun with the creative parts of the weekend (posters, skits, and songs). It was encouraging to hear how these guys (who were mostly my own age) were living out their faith and how God was working through their struggles with them. In my own church I have missed having guys my own age around – the good news is that He is bringing more and more of them to us and we’ve found a great small group to be involved with.
There were definitely some parts of the weekend that I did not enjoy too, but it was kinda cool to see God working in spite of it all. Here’s what I mean: On Friday afternoon, we were singing and I started noticing these guys behind me arm in arm swaying back and forth while they sung. Soon more men joined them and eventually it was me and a couple of other guys who were not involved. I felt a certain pressure to join them, but it was way out of my comfort zone – can you say awkward? JJ, one of the guys at my table, called it “Manlove.” Anyway, as I thought about it I realized that there is no place in American culture where this sort of thing happens with men (well, straight men). There is nothing about this behavior that men would really get excited about. As for a retreat and setting the stage for men to interact with God, it shouldn’t work. BUT when you factor God into the whole thing, “All bets are off.” God did move among us. He made His presence known, and in spite of this sort of counter-intuitive approach, God used the efforts of the Emmaus team.
Lord, thank you for the work of the Emmaus team and my fellow walkers – for their servanthood, teachings, discussions, and expressions of love. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to leave my job for a few days to focus on You and for protecting my family while I was away. Allow me to be the man you’ve called me to be at my home, at my job, and in my church, and everywhere I go. Lord, as You did on the road to Emmaus, continue to reveal Yourself and Your ways to me so I can become more like You.