Reflecting as one Kiwi at a 550 men’s Wild@Heart Boot Camp, Mt Hermon, California, Feb 2013.
Sat. night is free and we have the option of a movie. Pop corn and ‘soda’ (no, not that kind of “soda”) is provided and it’s Cinderella Man...and we do go to the ball. Russel Crowe again, as a boxer during the Great Depression. I’ve not seen this, so go early to get a good seat. As several other men quip,‘Didn’t see this at the time, title put me off.’ Interesting.
500 men crackling pop corn bags is almost deafening but dissipates as the pop corn literally goes down. The movie is amazing and perfectly suited to the retreat. There’s lots of Argh Argh, fist punching, clapping, as Russell Crowe overcomes his inner demons, weaknesses and beats disadvantage to a bloody pulp and wins his woman. Rocky I-IV for non-Italians. We love this stuff. It’s great being with American men, they are much more gregarious than NZ men; I find them much more supportive generally (“you can do it!” vs “tall poppy syndrome”). My American wife finds this aspect harder living in NZ, kiwi women being generally much more restrained; she needs regular ‘American Chick Time’ high octave-level re-charges. Fortunately we have several US friends living in NZ). And USWifeDownUnder is often the only one clapping at the end of a movie (while I cringe and shrink into my chair) yet here in California, I’m at the front of the cheerleading pack. Interesting.
As we come to the end of our marvellous guided retreat at Mt Hermon, most of us are sad, sad to be moving away from the unique cloistering of so many men. When does this ever happen for us? When, as guys, do we get to be in a group like this other than in war, where we get mangled, we kill other men or die? Sad to be heading away from a glasshouse of unique heart-felt experience, back to “reality,” doldrums and ordinariness. Many of us fear this with a primeval loathing, suspecting it the true default setting of life (actually the great lie, but many of us live it) and that we are waking from a lovely dream. And sensing this, John Eldredge and the team (Morgan, Craig, Brad) address these fears and concerns in the final session.
John provides encouragement and practical lessons on how to retain the spirit and material we’ve been studying together over the last four days. We conclude with a prayer, each of the guiders on stage, John clasping his personal claymore, and a departing thought: “See you in the field or see you at the feast!” The field is our areas of male endeavour in the kingdom, whatever we are doing (gifted desire), the feast is the final “Marriage feast of the Lamb,” basically a big party after all is done, a specific promise by Jesus for His mates.
And so we depart, like male-drones from a beehive looking for a Queen, a swarm of masculine humanity buzzing abroad to the four corners of the world: to Europe, the Americas, Ireland, Australia, me to New Zealand (perhaps the furthest). Cameras flash, hands are pumped, there are circles of men, arm in arm like a coach huddle, praying, hugging, laughing, crying. And…done.
I feel a twinge of sorrow, but am centered and eager to catch up with my son and daughter-in-law, who arrive within minutes from Chico. I’m eager also to be home again with Domestic Goddess of Lusciousness and Number1Son over from Korea; eager to begin putting in place some of the things I’ve learned. My suitcase is burdened with dvds, cds, books, nearly a life-size claymore (resisted), and John’s most recent book, “Walking With God” (a how to). The latter is a priceless gem for me; the former, a powder keg of supplies for my own church Grace Vineyard in Christchurch so we can set off some bombs in men’s hearts in bomb-wrecked city.
Provided in each of our retreat packs was a journal; diarying is an important aspect of the retreat. In closing tomorrow (#7), some thoughts I jotted down in that journal (many of which have appeared already on this new website, itself an outcome of Day 1 back from the retreat (ie: Courage Amidst Anxiety & Meaninglessness; Limp Phlegm or a ‘Man o War’?; Religious Rules vs Heart & Love). I hope you find them interesting.