I found myself preparing for our Men’s Encounter. Sleeping bag, some clothes, my tooth brush and I’m ready to go. How do you get ready for something when you don’t quite know what you’re about to get into? I then realized that I don’t really have a lot of experience with Men’s retreats to begin with. I’ve been to Promise Keepers….but nothing like an actual retreat.
I’ll be honest. When I think of a retreat, church camp comes to mind. Camp fires. Smores. Worship. A few teaching sessions. Some games. Bad camp food. Bunk houses. Crickets in the showers. My memories of camp were more social than they were life changing.
But I’m not going to church camp. I went to Encounter.
We pulled up to the retreat center. We are in the middle of no where. Cell Phone coverage is non-existant. The views of the surrounding mountains are breath-taking. We were told to pack our bags on the trailer but keep your Bibles in hand…we’ll be starting as soon as we get there. Geesh. Can’t even unpack our stuff and claim a bunk? No.
All of the leaders are lined up on the sidewalk greeting us as we get out of the van. Cheers, hugs & high fives welcomed us as we walked into the building. We find a seat and the worship starts. We weren’t singing anything campy though. Here is an example of one of the worship songs we sang. We were singing about spiritual warfare. Being in an army. My spirit was stirred. I knew this was going to be quite an experience.
I had no idea what to expect. All I wanted was to experience God. I wanted to be changed.
I am going to be real here. I am not hiding anything. The schedule was 3-4 sessions Friday night. All day Saturday. Come home Sunday morning. Break for meals, some downtime, and sleeping. That’s it. There are no special speakers. No pomp and circumstance. Every man that spoke goes to our church. Each one speaking their testimony on how God has transformed them. I didn’t really know what to do with that. Yes, I’ve heard people share their testimony before…but these are just the guys from church. How am I supposed to learn anything from them? Aren’t we going to get some fancy speaker or preacher in here? No. No fancy speakers.
Just a bunch of surrendered men allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them.
I caught myself judging the speakers. I know that sounds terrible. I heard every mispronounced word. Every grammatical error. I found myself comparing myself to them. Well, I could do a better job…this isn’t very polished at all…Paul talks about the battle between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5.17) – well my flesh was screaming. I felt God nudge me rather hard and tell me that I was in no place to judge…I needed to listen.
So I listened. I listened to men talk about addictions to pornography (and being freed from it), anger, hardened hearts, generational curses, shame, bitterness, and forgiveness. After each man spoke there was an altar call. A chance to take everything and dump it on the altar. I’ve been waiting for this. I was so exhausted from carrying around all the burdens from my past.
I went up after every speaker. If there was an opportunity to unload – I was up there.
Let me remind you that I am only 2 months old in this church. I literally knew 1 person there. I was out of my element. But when the Spirit of God is moving…He will move despite what my comfort level is.
Men would come up – different men at different times – and pray with me while I was on my knees crying my eyes out. They all prayed about things that they had no business knowing. They said things that really hit home – but they had no way of knowing! Yes they did. The Holy Spirit was moving. I am still getting to know the Holy Spirit, but what I’ve seen is amazing and I want more of Him!
Chains were broken. My dump truck of junk, emotional baggage, and shame were unloaded. I finally felt free from my past. I also felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was wiped out. I had some important lessons to learn. Because I’m not done with being delivered just yet (those will be in another post :) But I am learning that God does indeed break us free from our chains…but we have to LEARN how to walk in that freedom without letting the junk creep back in.
I will tell you that I am a free man! I’m not going back. God is working in me every day. Transforming my mind and my habits. My prayer is that you have been encouraged by my testimony. That you are able to experience the presence of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life.