It is exactly 5 years ago that I finished the first draft of what was to become a “men’s book for men who don’t read men’s books by an author who didn’t.” This coming weekend I’m going to and speaking at my first ever men’s retreat. I did not write a book out of my vast experience in men’s ministry and I won’t be going to the retreat with all the answers either. I wrote for myself and other men who did not seem to measure up to the models set up by Christian men’s organizations and best-selling books such as Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I also wrote for all the emerging young men that they might develop a more egalitarian, constructive, and pacifistic view of manhood than what had been promulgated. In my wildest dreams I believed that if a million North American Christian men would read my book, the world might be a safer and kinder place. Of course it only sold a few thousand but I know that it has made a profound difference in the lives of a few. That is enough for me.
It has been one of my dreams since the book was written to speak at a men’s retreat. I’ve done quite a few workshops and one day events, and I’ve been part of planning and speaking at dozens of youth retreats, but never a weekend men’s retreat. My first invitation to such an event happened to come from Michigan. Being a bit of a homeboy, I think I’m more nervous about crossing the border than about being at my first men’s retreat and also being the guest speaker.
I’m not sure that the answer to men’s spiritual woes is more retreats, prayer breakfasts, workshops, taking courses, or even reading books, although all can play a part in helping us understand ourselves and be ourselves in a way that contributes to SHALOM in our families, communities, and the world. I just know that almost all the stuff out there is playing to the same tune. Even the latest video curriculum I saw, “33: The Series, from the creators of the men’s fraternity” about “authentic manhood” still continues on with the old “king, warrior, lover” themes. Men! There is more to being a man than conquering evil, killing enemies, recuing fair maidens, and ruling your household! If you’re tired of this same old “authentic manhood” line, I’d like to point you to an alternative in my book, Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality. You can buy it from the publisher, Herald Press, or online from Amazon, and I even saw a copy in our local MCC Thrift Store!
How’s that for tooting my own horn? Arthur Paul Boers, who wrote the forward to the book, told me that if I believed God had given me a message I should not be afraid of doing my own promotion. “It is not self-promotion it is promotion of the Gospel.” I do hope I have good news to share for men and I pray that listeners this weekend and readers of the book will be affirmed in their manhood, especially if they don’t fit the stereotypical male mold. If you have read thus far and are unfamiliar with my project, you can read more by clicking on the tab, “men’s spirituality” on this website.