This past weekend was my annual Men’s Retreat. I have been doing these things for along time, and I have enjoyed each and every one of them, but this year the reason was a little different. My son, Zach, was along for the adventure. Let’s be clear, this is not one of those strip down and put on a loin cloth while dancing around a fire in the middle of the woods kind of things. Trust me. NOBODY wants to see that! These retreats are opportunities for a group of guys to get away, hear some good teaching, and just enjoy some time as men.
Men need times like this. It’s not that I wanted to get away from my wife. She’s AWESOME, and I love being with her. The thing is, as much as I love being with her, I need to be with guys too! She is my best friend. She is intelligent, cultured, refined, kind, and sweet. Basically, she is very much NOT a man. (I thank God for that each and every day!)
So, on these retreats, one of the things that we have tried to do for the last 5 years or so is to get the guys that do go on this trip to put a good amount of time into talking about the things that we struggle with. Sometimes we will take the material that we are being given and use that as our springboard, but often it is just the things that we are dealing with in our lives that brings the best conversation. Then, we will talk about what God would want us to do in that situation and set up some type of plan for making a change that will bring us more in line with what God would want us to do. Then, we assign a little bit of accountability. If you want to read a great article on THAT “dirty little word” then just click here.
I joined a great men’s group several years ago with my buddy Ray (He wasn’t my buddy until about half way through the class.) where we did a study called Authentic Manhood. It was a great study, and it has opened up many doors for growth in my life. It talks about how a man should live in the home, at work, and at church. It gives insight into why we are the way we are because of things from our past, but it gives us a promise that we are not prisoners to that past. We CAN change! It tells us how to be better husbands, fathers, employees, bosses, financial managers, and pretty much anything else you would want to be. Like I said, it opens up MANY doors for growth.
One thing taught in the study is the importance of building into the lives of our sons through intentional conversations, activities, and friendships. As we do these things, there are moments where it is good to “call up” your son into manhood. It’s not an “all-at-once” thing. It happens in stages, and those stages are marked by ceremonies that the young man will be able to look back on as he grows as moments where he was called out to be a man among men. It’s not just tied to his age. It’s more than that. He is called out by men who believe in him and want to see him grow. Those men will offer their advice to him and will stand with him as he grows. This is something that we need!
So, this retreat was very special to me because I had asked four men that God has brought into my life as my closest friends to help me in calling up my son. There were a lot of things that we did at the retreat, but this was by far, the most important thing that happened there that weekend.
The men that spoke to Zach are men that I love and respect. Yes, I said I love these guys. They are men that I pray for every day, and I know they pray for me too. We have shared things that are struggles in our lives, and we have been building a strong bond that encourages us when we are getting weighed down with the stresses and trials of life. I need these guys, and I hope they all need me too!
I asked each them to speak to Zach about something important. They spoke about Discipline, Integrity, Faith/Following God, and Friendship, then I ended it by talking about the importance of building a spiritual legacy that carries into eternity. At the end, I presented him with a gift. He now owns a shield that has a Tanner family crest on it. My hope is that he will always keep that shield and look back on this day when his dad and his four friends told him that he is becoming a man, and that they are going to help him grow into a good one. I want him to remember the respect that they showed him that day as men who are living out principles that they talked to him about.
As Zach grows over the next 5-10 years, there will be a couple more of these “ceremonies” that we will do. The topics will change, and there may be some other men that enter the mix, but one thing will stay the same. There will be an intentional focus on helping Zach to see the importance of men in his life. We were not designed to go solo, and it is a foolish man that thinks he can do it and get away with it.
I want there to be men that tell Zach the same story. Men who will echo my words that he should have a Relentless pursuit of God and relationship with Jesus Christ. I want him to love one woman with all his heart and to raise godly kids that he can teach the same things to. I want him to see the importance of giving his best at work, but knowing when it is time to set it aside for family. I want him to learn to identify his shortcomings and not just stew over them, but to determine and purpose in his heart that a failure is an opportunity to learn and be strengthened by God for a future victory.
I hope I pass this legacy on to Zach, and that he will take it on to his kids and almost as importantly, to other men. Let’s face it, we will all impact out own kids on purpose or accidentally. There is no arguing that, but think about what could happen if men were intentional about not inly impacting their own kids, but the children of their friends as well! Now we are talking about Relentless Living!
Many thanks to the four men who spoke to Zach this weekend. Mike, Tom, Joe, & Ray, I appreciate it more than I can ever tell you. Justin, Noah, Phil, and Marty, I am glad you were there too as witnesses and as participants in a weekend that I know I will never forget!