Friendship After Forty?

Steve Arterburn

A motivational speaker noted in his talk that after age forty, men typically possess no close friends. What’s a man to do? We can learn from him. When he and his fianc’e were planning their wedding, he realized he didn’t have a single male friend whom he considered close enough to be his best man.

 

This shocking realization brought impetus for change. He identified two men he knew that shared his faith and values. Then he prayerfully approached them regarding the possibility of exploring and developing long-term friendships. They both responded positively, and they’ve continued a deep, trusting relationship for several decades. From those relationships came the insights for a book, The Company You Keep: The Transforming Power of Male Friendship, written by David Bentall It’s a great resource for men on the subject of friendship.

Every man without at least one close friend is missing three important things: (1) someone to walk with despite failures, (2) someone to explore a vision for life with, and (3) someone to face the darkness of our world with.

If you’re looking for reasons to seek and build friendships with other men, these are as good as any.

Trick or Treat’Choosing Authenticity

Dante Poole MA, NCC

Ask a kindergartener what they want to be when they grow up and most will give you an answer without hesitation. In the mind of a child the possibilities are endless as they are allowed the freedom to dream big dreams because they are children and well’the possibilities are endless. By middle school most early adolescents begin to exchange their big dreams for someone else’s small fantasy. The greatest heist occurs during these years as the enemy begins to seduce us through the influence of our peers, into believing that we need to be just like them. Using our need to belong and the threat of that need not being met, our dreams latent with the truth about who we were suppose to become, get tabled in exchange for cheap Halloween costumes that we accept as our new identity.

If you have ever worn one of those costumes you know how uncomfortable they can be.

As a child my parents allowed us to celebrate Halloween. Every year we would get a new costume and participate in some party or gathering highlighted by tons of the sugary treasures we hoarded in our pockets, socks, plastic jack-o-lanterns, themed plastic bags or the old faithful brown paper bag. Most outfits were plastic jumpsuits with drawstrings that got tied around your neck. There were two very distinct features about these outfits;

(1) no matter which character you chose to be (or in some cases the only character left on the shelf because your parents waited to the very last moment to buy your costume) there was always a part of your back that remained exposed leaving part of your true identity without concealment;
(2) the rubber band that held that hot plastic mask to your face always irritated your head as you sweated profusely all the while yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’

Oh, the lengths we went to become someone else.

The truth is we enjoyed those outfits because for a moment in time we had the chance to be something or someone we admired. The costumes, whether superhero or super-beast/creature, had characteristics we longed to have in our own lives and we chose them so that we could pretend to be able to leap over buildings in a single bound. We were faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

Unfortunately, masses of men are still running around hidden behind hot sweaty masks with their backs exposed hoping no one will notice that it’s just a costume. We have somehow convinced ourselves that as long as we wear the costume and play the part no one will know the truth. Our lives have become adjusted to the darkness of our concealment to the point that we have become crafty as actors, playing our roles so well that we can no longer distinguish between the false persona and the real person. When faced with the truth about ourselves we fortify our masks and push others away so that we can remain in darkness.

The scripture says in Luke 8:17 ‘For everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light and made plain to all’. (NLT)

Have you ever met a child who wanted the trick instead of the treat? What disappointment a child would experience if they got duped into believing that they had a bag full of treats only to discover later that they had been hoodwinked. Have others experienced this disappointment because they were expecting to encounter the genuine you and what they ended up with is feeling tricked? We cannot hide in darkness forever. We are called to live authentically. That means we not only tell the truth about ourselves, but we live the truth and accept that some people will not be able to engage us with loving kindness when they see us for who we really are. To live authentically can be unnerving for those who are skilled at hiding.

One truth that has helped me in my struggle for genuine transparency is knowing that God loves me despite all of my failures, bad decisions and all the other things about my life that make me want to take cover. He loves me, not the person others say I should be, not the person I wish I could be’.He loves me and that’s the truth. The Father Almighty takes pleasure in bestowing His love, mercy and favor upon all those who would dare to live the truth. His love looks beyond our faults and meets our need for love.

Here are three steps to towards living more authentically:

1. Learn to tell yourself the truth. Jeremiah 17:9-10a says ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.’ It is part of our human condition to lie to ourselves about our abilities, limitations and the true nature of our condition. Left on our own we will make a mess of our lives. What is it that keeps us from being honest with ourselves? Pride. It is being confident in our own ability to fix things. The trouble in our lives didn’t get there because of someone else but because we refused to accept our own limitations for fear of being seen as weak or failures. If you re-examine every failure in your life you’ll find bread crumb trails that lead you back to moments of pride & self sufficiency. All of us are in need of spiritual heart surgery.

2. Let God show you how to live in any way that seems right to Him. Sometimes we are expecting God to do things according to what we have determined is the right course of action. The problem is that God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We are all guilty of trying to tell the Expert how to do His job. The Lord knows what is best and He chooses the course of action that best accomplishes His will for the lives of humanity. Trust the Expert.

3. Look at the man in the mirror. Authenticity requires regular self examination even when things are going well’no especially when they are going well. Surveying our hearts for the little things we let slide because they don’t seem to matter, will make all the difference. What we won’t deal with today, will deal with us tomorrow.

Either we make a choice to come into the light freely or God will allow circumstances to bring us into the light through consequence. Never ever forget that God is with you and longs to reveal the real you to the rest of the world because you are an expression of His love. The earth becomes a better place when men decide to take off their masks and live an unconcealed, unveiled life. Walk in the light and may every person who encounters you discover the treat that God has gift wrapped in the package called you.

Knowing the ROCK: Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 3

David Mackey

Just to review: Just as false intimacy was part of what fed our addiction, True intimacy will strengthen our recovery. So this series will look at 4 of the many facets of intimacy which can be found in an intimate relationship with God AND with others.

This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others. In the Psalms, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

Last month we discovered that David often equated being free from shame as a piece, a deep piece, of having an ‘In-To-Me-See’ relationship. Our struggle with shame might be at the deepest layer that someone can see in us.

In verse 2 of Psalm 31, David, reveals another facet of intimacy. ‘Turn your ear to me” be my ‘rock of refuge,’ be my “strong fortress.’ David equates God BEING his ‘Rock of Refuge’ and Strong Fortress’ with being listened to. Psalm 28:1 and 72:2-3 make a similar connection. But wait there’s more! Over 60 times in the Psalms alone, the psalmist asks God to listen or hear or turn His ear.

Being listened to is part of intimacy!

Listening, at first glance may first be seen as more of a practical or functional piece of intimacy. Most likely, as with most facets of intimacy, something deeper is inferred. These are cries to be listened to with understanding and acceptance. These cries are looking for a listener who does not belittle one’s most vulnerable heart and soul. They seek listener who loves and accepts even after hearing the hurts and pains of one’s heart.

As a counselor, people actually pay me to listen to them. Weird huh? Not so weird if one ponders how important being heard or being listened to is for us. It is such a great need. Think about how frustrating it is when someone doesn’t listen to us with even the most mundane of issues. Now think about what it feels like for someone not to listen to some deeper issues in our heart and soul.

For the practical side of intimacy, listening is a must! How will one share one’s self, or allow someone to ‘See-In-To-Me’ without being heard? The other practical side of listening is of course, talking/verbalizing. Verbalizing/talking about anything deeper then sports seems to be difficult for most men, especially men who have nurtured the secret sins of sexual impurity. That however, is a different article. But take note that David was finding intimacy, finding God as his rock by speaking/verbalizing his heart.

This all started back in the ‘Garden’ (not ‘Madison Square’ sports fans). Adam walked with God. Adam talked and God listened. God talked and Adam listened. There was intimacy. We are strengthened and encouraged when someone listens to and understands our hopes and dreams, our pain and sorrows, our fears and challenges. These tell who we really are at our core.

Take time to explore the Psalms and see the context in which David is often asking God to listen to him. David shares his loneliness, fears, discouragement, and his anger as well his joy. Sharing good stuff is part of intimacy also. Our dreams, hopes, laughter, and praise all come from within us, sometimes deep within us. David shares it all with God and in doing so connection happens. Intimacy is strengthened. He cries out for God to listen to him. God’s response seems to be to listen and accept.

See the picture? David is sitting in the safe intimacy of God as his Rock, Refuge, Fortress and pouring out his heart in all his pain, hurt and even ugliness and God is just holding and LISTENING to David in that safe refuge.

This is intimacy with God. And it is what exists in an intimate relationship with others. Someone listening to the cry of our heart, just listening and understanding and accepting.

So we find another piece of a wonderful invitation God gives us through David! God invites us to be heard and known while sitting in the Rock, Refuge and Fortress!

Intimacy: Knowing God as your Rock.

What will recovery be like knowing God in a way in which we are listened to, loved, and accepted? We can sit and look Jesus in the eye and share our deepest struggles.

What will recovery be like listening to and being listened to by others? Knowing others in a way in which they hear our hearts. We can sit and look one another in the eye and share our deepest struggles. How powerful is that in recovery?

In your recovery pursue the path of true intimacy with all your being. This is not a command from God but it is an invitation. Terrifying, in our sin to be sure, but it is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5