catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 7 :: 2006.04.07 — 2006.04.21


Cards on the table

Main Entry: her?e?tic
Pronunciation: ’her-&-"tik
Function: noun
1 : a dissenter from established church dogma;
2 : one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine

Two other guys gather into my living room while our wives met elsewhere, each group forming a conclave of trust as our children sleep. Tension veneered with relaxed indifference is peppered with small talk as we catch up on what’s happened since we last met. Each of us knows why he is here, but none of us wants to openly admit the reason for needing this, or each other, as badly as we do. Drinks are offered, cushions rearranged on suddenly uncomfortable couches, conversation draws to silence, and someone suggests we get started. Somehow I?m nominated to open us in prayer.

Lord Jesus, thank you for bringing us here tonight, safely. We pray that you?ll watch over our wives as they meet also. Father, we offer this time to you to be made more like you. As we share our lives together, speak into us and through us. Make us more into the men you?ve created us to be. In Jesus? name we pray, Amen.

Nervous looks dart around the room like frightened mice. For a second the silence continues, but finally I offer it up: “Ok, I?ll go?.” And so begins the fortnightly accounting of my life. The good, the bad, the ugly, the spiritual, the not-so spiritual, the victories, the down-right sinful, and all the inner workings of my thoughts and actions.

In the days before we meet my stomach turns in knots, trying somehow to hold within itself all that it is about shed. My soul writhes like a snake overgrown beneath the sin enveloping it, choking and restraining it. In order to grow further, the old skin needs to come off. But the process is painful, and it takes time, and it leaves you open and vulnerable. Like picking at dry flaky scales, prayer offers some relief. It at least calms me to the process, knowing that the get-together is in itself growth towards holiness. Every time we meet, a little bit more comes away.

We start by recalling our memory verses?something we?ve chosen to teach us, build us up, or correct our thinking. One by one we recite our latest scripture, with reference, each trying to out do the others with length, complexity and flawless repetition. Even here a guy?s competitive nature is not put aside! One falter, and there are sideways glances, half encouraging, half hoping to have a laugh at another’s less than perfect memory. The ice broken, we move on to more serious matters.

We talk about the usual stuff. How are we treating our wives? Our children? How is our time with God, one-on-one? Are we making the best of our resources? Is our thought life in line? What?s going on at work? We keep each other accountable. Have we done what we said we would? Are our lives reflecting our belief in God? This is not just confession of sin, but actively transferring our beliefs from our thoughts to our words and into our actions. Avoiding heresy is one thing, pursuing God quite another.

Nothing is forced out?I?m free to choose what I share. My guys know they can ask anything, and equally I can say, “Don?t go there. I don?t want to talk about that.” But we?re here to open ourselves, to get deeply into each other?s lives. What stays hidden stays unchallenged and easily festers, infecting the good that remains within.

When we first started the group, talking was hard. It was so outside our own experiences. We come from conservative backgrounds, with middle class experiences and expectations. A doctor, a lawyer and a software engineer, each fitting the mold of the reserved professional, are not known for radically sharing their personal thoughts. The conservative Christian does not live life open and exposed to his fellow disciple. The social expectation is a fa?ade of perfection, life without the need for challenge, but also without depth, and any real relationship or community.

Sometimes it?s still just as hard to open up and share my real life. It?s all too easy to show the fa?ade. But that image of the Perfect Christian is sacrilegious and lifeless, and my God didn?t die for that, as my brothers soon remind me.

We talk things through, mull things over, and generally challenge each other and ourselves on how we think and what we do. I often feel as though my metal is not iron, but yet we seem to sharpen each other.

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