Our son is turning 21 in March and to celebrate this significant coming of age in a young man’s life, we decided to organise a father-son road trip. Just the two of us on a journey through the midwestern states of the US. Discovering old parts of the famous route 66 and also take him to his first Wild at Heart boot camp in the Colorado Rockies. The event is organised by Ransomed Heart ministries- the same organisation from which our small ministry has sprouted. Our time together was nothing short of an adventure; hiking, shooting, snowboarding, basketball games and sightseeing. All mixed-up with the sights and sounds of everything the beautiful midwestern states have to offer, including drinking the daily shot of our favourite “caramel macchiato”.
What a gift to spend time with your son like that.
One of the highlights (there were many) of our trip was for me the boot camp. Although this would be the “umpteenth” time I would be attending a boot camp, I was naively thinking that this retreat would be for my son- how wonderfully wrong I was.
Do you know how we can wrestle with certain behaviours or parts of our character that are just so incredibly unattractive? If we have the courage, to be honest for a moment and take a close look at ourselves, we all will find these “blemishes” in our behaviour. Things like “passivity” or “anger”. It could be that sense of “I don’t know how to get my life on track” or that always present “impatience” or “fear”. There are so many attributes we accept as part of our personality or character that we have unconsciously accepted as true- it’s just part of who I am- theology! The fruit of so-called accepted “truths” about who we are or what we see underneath the exterior is perfectly described by our dear Apostle Paul, where he says; “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
For me, a big theme in my life has always been “defensiveness”, wrapped up with all kinds of negative characteristics like impatience and blame, something- just like Paul- I have come to hate about myself.
I think we can all point to some “blemishes” in our character that we would like to see wiped out- erased from the depths of our soul. I know I would. Honestly, I have had too many of these broken parts of my soul to mention.
And although I have received much restoration over the years, this one was huge and needless to say, something that needed to be dealt with.
I would love to share every detail about how God lovingly performed “heart surgery” on me during this retreat, but that would take a few extra pages of your time. I will, however, say that it is only by the ever-present works of Christ that we can get free from the very things that keep us from becoming the man God sees in us. This is exactly the point Paul is making in Romans 7 and 8. It is only that we must have a longing or desire to be different. A desire to become more than we are right now. And, oh man! What a weight has been lifted from my shoulders! I feel like a new man- really! Am I therefore truly changed? You bet, but it is a process. Just like everything else within the kingdom. God doesn’t just zap us into something else. He wants us to become more hole but he also wants very much to do that with him, in partnership- a divine intimacy- as Dallas Willard puts it. And this is very encouraging.
God loves to encourage us also. A guy walked up to me during boot camp and the conversation went like this:
Him: “Wow- I am so glad I bumped into you. I met you three years ago and what you said back then has stuck with me ever since”.
Me: “Sorry friend, I recognise your face but can’t remember what I said”.
Him: “We sat at the same table during dinner and I asked you if this was your first time at a boot camp. You replied by saying you had been to many over the years. Then I asked you why would you keep coming back? And you responded: “if you have the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus, and let him offer all that he wants, why would you not?” Those words have inspired me to return three times”.
What an encouragement- ah? The next day, another guy with exactly the same story walked up to me and said something along those same lines!
For me personally, this is the only reason I keep returning to the importance of attending a boot camp. It is here, during the intimate presence of God that we can focus on what he has for us as his sons. Is it, therefore, the only way? No, of course not. God is greater than any retreat we can organise, but it is the combination of the environment and the time spent alone with him, that allows for the “heart surgery” most men so desperately (unknowingly) need.
If you were wondering if you should attend one of our retreats, let me give you some perspective. All the wonderful, life-changing works that Christ performs in the many examples that are written down in the Gospels, none of them are forced upon the individual. The blind man sees…because he asks Jesus for help. The deaf hear…because they ask! The lame walk…because they ask, do you get the picture? Jesus wants to give, he is by definition a giver of himself. But we need to want more, become more. He will never force change upon you but he will willingly give all that you need.
So, if you have the chance to sit at the feet of Jesus, why would you not?