On Sunday morning, there was another altar call; this time for forgiveness. I realized when I went up to the altar and just felt overwhelmed with emotion that this was the reason I was at the retreat. All of the stuff on Friday and Saturday was just to prepare me to get to a point of forgiveness. I needed to forgive the church at large, which I still thought of as a total waste, even though I had found so many godly people at Water of Life. I also needed to forgive the Christian & Missionary Alliance guy for hurting me, because he was the reason I had stopped believing in the church. As the Beard (the name we have for the pope of the Friends church) said, forgiveness doesn't come all at once, and it doesn't mean I should be completely trusting again, but it does mean that I will not let this hinder my relationship with God. So it's going to be a long road (and it already has been) on recovery to building trust in God's people again, but this was the beginning of making that committment.
In fact, I can see already how the events leading up to and including this retreat were really a complete undoing of what was done to me that day in the C&MA office. Where I was untrusted, Eric trusted me to help lead a life group. Where I was counted as unworthy, the men of Water of Life counted me one of the unworthy saints. Where I was considered weird, I was re-considered part of the beauty of God's creation. I am beginning to realize that I don't have to beat myself up over my mistakes, because the men of Water of Life love Jesus too much to pay attention to my faults. It's an awesome freedom to know that I can be myself--as weird as that may be--and also be part of a larger movement of God. I'm also so humbled by the encouragement they gave me and their relationships with God.
I began thinking about the pastors that were there, because in many ways, this was a meeting of the Friends church brass. I realized that I used to live like I was a pastor when I thought that was my calling. I used to care about people, and try to encourage them. I don't think I was ever as good at it as the Water of Life guys (and the other men at the retreat), but I definitely used to live like I believed my actions mattered. Considering that the calling of the pastor is really just the calling of every person (to love others), there's no reason I can't walk that path again. So I've decided to live like I am a pastor--not because that's my calling, but because I think the idea of there being some boundary between laity and clergy is a farce. Christ didn't say, "I call some of you to be better than others." We're all given the same commandments, but some may just have a longer way to go to get there (and there's grace for that). In other words, it's okay for someone else to be a Christian and not be capable of acting out of compassion for others; maybe they don't have that gifting, or they're new to the Christian life, or they're in a bad spot spiritually, or a variety of other reasons. But for me, if I don't live my life in the same way as Eric, Scott, or Mark, I am not being true to the gifts and the knowledge God gave me. I think I'm culpable for being the man I know how to be, and I think I'm ready to start trying to live up to that again.
Anyways, just for fun, I wanted to chronicle the things I learned on the Men in Missions trip:
- Tennis is more about moving your legs than your arms, and it's actually fun.
- Sheetz is ultimate.
- Doing "the worm" on a hard carpet can injure your "no-nads."
- Where a woman sees navy beans and drinking straws, a man sees deadly weapons.
- If God tells you to quit your job, ask for confirmation (in writing if possible).
- Cheering for God can be deafeningly loud.
- If you don't know a person's last name, you can just write in "Dude."
- Yes, you can feed 8 men on $12, but it may take an hour to do it.
- Eight men in a small room = stinky.
- Mac people like Rob Bell are hipsters.
- The filter in sleep apnea machines is not smell-proof.