My experience with MIB has been truly a journey in “Believing in the Relationship.” I have always considered myself to be a “spiritual” person. I was raised in the Catholic Church, went to parochial high school and have attended an annual religious retreat weekend for the last 32 years. Becoming involved in MIB truly opened my eyes to the Lord’s work. It wasn’t about being of a particular faith, but being a servant of the Lord.
In February of 2009, I accepted the challenge of starting the Mid-West chapter of MIB. Jerry Hancock called me to suggest the Lord’s work needed to be done during the worst economic downturn since the great depression. I was hesitant at first, but willingly accepted the challenge. The assignment Jerry put in front of me was very different then any other work I have done.
What was different about this work? MIB is about doing God’s work. I invited 15 of my closest male friends to talk about our ‘feelings’. I was expecting to hear the macho reaction to such a crazy idea. To my pleasant surprise, the exact opposite occurred. All of the men invited attended the first meeting. I was truly inspired. One of the key concerns everyone shared was a desire for greater balance in their lives.
Over the last 13 months, I have seen a group of 15 men grow to a group of 65 men. Each monthly meeting we have at least one new man attend. Men return to leverage their new friendships with their fellow men of faith and to develop their relationships. Through the various topics we have covered, a few things have been very consistent: Men are very much looking to develop their relation with the Lord. This development can take the form of an individual’s relationship with God, their relation with a spouse, or a relationship with a parent that may have been strained for many years.
Today’s men do not want to make the same mistakes their fathers made. They have a great desire to achieve balance in life. This balance takes the form of security, love and understanding for all of the relationships in their lives. An interesting note is that we have never experienced a lack of dialogue in a meeting. In fact, the exact opposite has occurred. Each month I had to exercise the hard stop rule to end the meeting on time. Not bad for a bunch of men who are afraid to share their feelings!
A couple of examples clearly come to mind for me. There is a work colleague who very consistently attended the meetings over the last year. Although, he is an active participant in the group, he never really expressed a particular concern about a relationship in his life. As the facilitator of the group, sometimes you wonder if “things are working.” Then the good Lord sends a little sign to inspire you. What I didn’t know was this individual was struggling with the various male relationships in his life. Through attending MIB, the inspiration came to establish a dinner for the men in his family to attend. The first dinner was very successful and the next dinner is planned. MIB provides the inspiration, fellowship and faith to know that you’re not the only man struggling with a particular issue. By receiving the encouragement in this spiritual environment men are conquering “ghosts” that have been in their closets for years.
The second example personally impacts me. Growing up I was very fortunate to have two very loving parents. Through athletics my father and I grew very close. I often referred to him as my best friend rather then my father. During my senior year in high school my parents divorced. As I advanced through adulthood we would spend less and less time together. I moved my family to Cincinnati in 1997 for career advancement. The connection with my father started to disappear. For many years, I have always suppressed my feelings about our relationship. I guess I never really wanted to trouble him. Through MIB, I met another man who has experienced a very similar scenario. Through our conversations I realized I need to reach out to my father, but how? Over all these years there was still one common bond we had– attending an annual men’s religious retreat weekend. My Dad had not attended retreat for a number of years for various reasons. Recently, a family disagreement with his brother developed and resulted in him not attending retreat. I prayed hard and received the courage to ask my Dad to attend retreat with me. This past January, I celebrated my 20th retreat. My father, father-in-law, son and many very close male (new and old) friends were in attendance. Through MIB, I learned to express my feelings and ask. My prayers were answered.
So, for me, MIB has been a tremendous blessing. I have a great opportunity to develop my servantship to the Lord, help other men, and grow as a Christian man. Over the last year a consistent theme continues to appear, “Believe in the relationship.”