i’m home from my four days in the woods, 3 hours north of toronto. here is a stream-of-consciousness list of random thoughts (some in response to the experience, some in response to the comments on my earlier post). i’ll also post seperately about my own time of sharing and implications.
the water in lakes three hours north of toronto is still absurdly cold in early may, as was experienced when five of us took a jump off the end of the dock. we all agreed later, while in the hot tub, that another minute or so in the lake could have meant death.
8 guys can consume a remarkable amount of junk food in 72 hours.
i can’t force anyone to share what they don’t want to share. that was the crux of my earlier post. in the evangelical church (my tradition), we’ve had this idea that accountability is something you “hold” someone to. bull.
a better word for what we experience at this annual gathering is “group discernment”. in six of the eight cases, the end result of our individual sharing times was something we didn’t see coming. it wasn’t about listing our sins. it was about saying, “here’s what’s been going on in my life and mind and soul this year”, followed by 30 to 60 minutes of probing questions that lead to a collective discernment (a spiritual discernment) of some action that needs to take place. it was spiritual direction without any one person taking the roll of spiritual director (we all took that role, collectively). in two of the cases, the result will likely mean a sabbatical of some sort — to address what we discerned as the-edge-of-burnout or the-edge-of-depression. in two more cases, the result will likely mean some sort of short-term counseling to help with either identity pieces or anger issues.
i think this group discernment is what some of you were getting at in your comments about accountability being an issue of community. but i had community with the guys i met with back in the day (where deep levels of crap were still withheld by some) — which still leaves me thinking our traditional concept of accountability is wack.
i also have a truly wonderful community i meet with every week — my small group — that provides some of this; but it’s different. there was something significant about this week being a time when us 8 guys said, “we’re here to deal with our stuff — good, bad, ugly.” one of the great strengths of my small group is its diversity — we are all different ages, in different life stages, and in varying places in our spiritual journey. this provides a context that is more like a true expression of church. the group i met with this week, however, is somewhat more homogeneous — we’re all guys, we’re all in professional roles with high pressure and the ability to have culture-shaping influence. we all have the ability to screw up our families if we’re not keeping that on the radar. and all of us have been in some season of role transition — which provides a level of insight and kinship that, i think, massively aids in the group discernment process (we can see each others issues more quickly and clearly). another interesting piece of this group is that we truly have the capability of helping each other, in tangible ways, with the “next steps”.
i stand by the idea that (maybe this is more true for men than it would be for women?) there’s something very powerful about us only meeting once a year (and, understand, everyone in the group is in more regular connection with some of the others in group on a more regular basis). it’s helpful for looking at the macro-level issues in our lives, because our starting point for each person is what we talked about last year when we were together. it seems to me that some of the strength of this group would be minimized if we met weekly or monthly (which would be impossible, of course, since we are all over north america), which could rob us of the opportunity to truly get into the macro-level stuff.
having a seperate space to set up a video projector for Halo carnage is cathartic.
so, i guess one of my conclusions is that i need to stop referring to this group as an accountability group. that, and i’m really not a fan of salt-and-vinegar chips, which the canadians ate as if their lives depended on it.