This morning I met with about 50 men. It’s easy to find seriously committed people on an overseas mission field, because that’s why you go, but not so much in a place like the USA where much is taken for granted. On the (overseas) mission field, I’ve heard it said that after 8 years you’ve beaten the longevity curve. But most of the guys in my Wednesday morning group have their fair share of gray hair, and have been on mission for many more years than eight. What a great spot to find myself, in the company of spiritual lions, right here in Columbus, Ohio.
So we meet to talk about serious things. Life things. God things. How to improve as friends, as husbands, as fathers, as children of God. In other words, as human beings. While the group started with 6 guys meeting 6 years ago, has since extended into a rather large group, it hasn’t lost its hallmark flair of intimate discussion and sharing – wherein lies one of its strengths.
I’ve only been there twice, but by all appearances the thing is spirit-run. There is a facilitator, John, has so far said very little. At least with words. For example this morning one fellow opened with prayer – a deep, heartfelt one. Picking up on an internal cue, John then asked him the seemingly simple question, “So, do you pray with your wife that way?” Simple, right? Who knew that it would be so powerful?
Thom’s response was tearful, because he feels estranged spiritually from his spouse. Like may of us do even if we don’t admit it. But, like many of the guys, Thom’s not afraid to talk. In fact, he’s shameless about it. I imagine that situation will change in his house. Quickly. Because Thom is taking spiritual responsibility for his household. He’s taking charge and, if I know peeps, is not looking back.
Of course, it wasn’t just about Thom. He was just God’s unwitting accomplice to lead us this morning. It’s about all of us. So each of us took a minute to write what it meant to us. What was going on when Thom prayed? What’s the difference between that and many of our prayers, whether it be in private, with our spouses, or with others? John had a picture of a lion up on the big screen. He told us to contemplate a bit about the lion, and what it might have to do with praying with your spouse.
What struck me about Thom’s prayer was its authenticity. There’s something about a human that is authentic that is sadly remarkable. It’s sad because it’s so rare. But that’s also why it’s so powerful. When you see an authentic human, you know. I’ll bet that’s why Jesus doesn’t, to this day, have a hard time gathering followers. We are intrinsically drawn to his integrity and sincerity. You can’t fake being Jesus (although some have tried!).
Authenticity will make relationships. It is the prime builder. It is the basis for trust. What happened the last time someone lied to you? Did you then allow him to invest your money for you, or manage your business, or watch your children? Authentic humans are accessible, intimate, and cooperative. Authentic prayer with your spouse will lead to openness, closeness, and unity.
Then there’s the lion. What does a lion have to do with praying with your spouse? Probably nothing, unless you were in that room with us. To me, the image of that lion had everything to do with it, because a lion is as authentic as Thom’s prayer. What I mean is this: when you see a lion, you know exactly what it is. It will never lie to you. The same is not necessarily true for humans. Humans lie, and are so good at it that they can even deceive themselves! But, with lions anyway, when you meet one you know one of two things with certainty: it will devour you if it’s hungry or, if you are a member of its pride, you are safe.
And that’s the heart of where Thom went with it. He, like me and others in the room, are men in transition. We’re transforming into authentic human beings. I’ll sum up what Thom learned and hope that you find it as challenging as I do: “I’m going to pray (for my wife) what I want for her…rather than what I want from her.”
To me, that sounds like the prayer of an authentic lion for his pride.
Photo by Tambako the Jaguar