"Ground beef" or "bound grief", you decide...
I have returned from the snowy mountain-tops, and I *think* I'm ready to try and do a re-cap of sorts.
Let me start off by saying this: I'm glad I went.
I wanted to get that out of the way from the outset, so you know where I'm going with all this. And also for those of you with no time to wade through all of my elaboration, and just wanted to grab the summary and move on. Hey, I respect that! If that's you, thanks for dropping by! But you're going to miss a funny story...
You will laugh, I'm sure of it - especially if you know me in "real life", since what I did this weekend is so far out of the box for me, it's in a different zip code. If I had known what I was getting myself into, there is no way on earth I would have attended - and I would not have got the benefit that I did. I would have missed out.
That having been said, let me get the punchline out of the way first. This was basically one of those "he-man" Christian boot-camp type of retreats, where there's a "drill sergeant" type who is trying to whip a bunch of Christian dudes into outdoorsy warrior-types. When we all assembled out in a snow-covered field and the call went out to "drop into push-up position, now!" I knew I was in trouble...
Seriously. Here I was, with about 100 other men, out in a field, doing push-ups in the snow with a DI barking orders at us "Up! Down! Up! Down! On your feet!" etc. If someone messed up by pushing up too soon, we started over... I resisted the overwhelming urge to stand up and walk back to my cabin, grumbling under my breath. I tried to hang in. I did about 10 push-ups, failed, shifted to girl push-ups, failed. Then just laid there.
And that was just the beginning.
What followed was 3 more hours of "team building" exercises, which included sitting in the snow, passing big tires over my head to the guy sitting behind me, then running to the back of the line, and passing them over head again, etc. We then stood in a line, passing a big length of wood (like an 8x8 or something) overhead, again running to the end of the line and passing it over again. Then we formed ranks and marched in unison, arms locked, across the field, chanting stuff. Then they had some people grab these big shields and form an interlocking circle around the pastor, while the rest of us pushed in on all sides. Then they used the shields to form a "turtle" and the rest of us bombarded them with snowballs.
There was more!
The whole time - the whole weekend, in fact - I was saying "This is so retarded! I get it already! We're 'brothers' and a 'body' and we're supposed to work together and help each other and protect each other."
But you know what? Every time I said I was just going to stroll over to the sidelines and watch instead, I would say, "ok, fine, I'll participate, maybe God will show me something." Without fail, whenever I actually did the activity, I benefited from it. As lame as all of this "team-building/warrior" stuff was, I was glad I tried it. It kicked my butt, I was cold and wet, but I wasn't really miserable. I've been such a loner for sooo long, it was really weird to do these things with a bunch of whooping, hollering men, being Christian "hoo-ah!" marine wannabe types.
Like I said - so far out of my normal mode of operations, it's ridiculous. I kept thinking, "if anyone I knew actually saw me doing this, they would laugh their butts off." Me sitting in the snow, passing big tires over my head. What is that! lol....
Here's the "shield wall" thing they made...
And here's a quick clip of the crowd pressing in on the shield wall...
That bald guy at the end in black and red was the Drill Instructor guy.
Here's the "turtle" inching across the field, under a snowball barrage.
We ended the afternoon by forming ranks up on the road and jogging to the meeting hall, like you see in the movies, where the DI jogs along side chanting something, then everyone repeats it, lol. Then when we got to the meeting hall, the chanting continued for like 10 more minutes. "Brotherhood!" echo "Unity!" echo "Sacrifice!" echo, you get the idea. Yeah, I rolled my eyes too.
The main speaker was a guy named John Burns, who talked (of course) about being a man, and dealing with man-related issues (anger, porn, relationship stuff, figuring women out, etc), and was quite entertaining.
You'd think I would have slept like a log that night, but I was very uncomfortable all night, and slept very little. When I did finally sleep, I had a dream that my senior Pastor died. In the dream, me and our other pastor (Stan) were helping our senior pastor climb up a set of stairs, and once he got to the top, he shrank and fell over. We helped lay him down, and he was dead. Then a voice said, "Well, now what will you do? Now that there's a vacancy." Then I woke up. Not sure if the voice was asking me, or Stan, actually.
The next day, it began to snow, so I thought, "Awesome! No more outdoor nonsense - they'll keep us inside and someone will preach or something." No such luck. Back outside, into the snow we went. I told myself there was no way I was participating again - I was going to duck out and go to my cabin and relax and read The Name of the Wind all afternoon. The rest of the yahoos could go romp in the snow, but not me. But no such luck. We were formed into groups of 3 men - so my absence would have been noticed. I didn't want anyone to get in trouble because of me.
So out to the snow we went, to do more team-building exercises. We dragged tires up a hill, 2 people pulling, one person scouting ahead for the best route up...
The symbolism was supposed to be carrying our responsibilities in life, which is hard, but made easier by sharing the load with others, and seeking advice/guidance from those who have gone before, etc. OK, fine, I got it. But I participated anyway, in my slick-bottomed shoes, lol, falling frequently.
We played rugby in the snow, with the ball representing our dreams, which we pass to team-mates, so we help each other achieve our goals, etc. OK, fine, I got it. And I participated.
We made giants out of snow, to represent Goliath, and then we took turns grabbing a big machete, calling out the name of our "giant" (Anger! Apathy! Doubt!) and then "cutting the head off" of that giant with the machette. There were other activities as well...
Then we ended with the DI giving the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V, while we stood in the snowfall, shivering together...
There's a quick clip, to show you I'm not making this up.
Bottom line, it was equal parts ridiculous, and ultimately very cool. There's no way on earth I ever would have participated in such things if I'd known about it ahead of time. But every time I made myself participate, I was glad. Yes, the points they were making could easily have been conveyed in a sermon in a warm room somewhere, with hot cocoa. I understood the concepts, even though my MO has *always* been to do things myself, alone, as if a real man can handle his stuff alone, without help. The concept of looking out for one another, and helping each other, in a "brotherhood" kind of thing is foreign, but understandable to me. And though the concepts were clear to me, there was something about actually doing these things that took it to a different level.
There was more teaching that night from Jon Burns which was good, then we ate, got chains on Orion's vehicle, and headed for home, well after dark, with tons of snow falling. The guys I rode up with were all good guys, who have been through a LOT of hard road in their lives, including numerous stints in jail, etc., but they were geared up and ready to move forward doing right, and I hope they keep that momentum. As for me, I'm glad I went. It is absurd, I know, to picture me doing such things, but I'm really quite glad I did.
Lots of other detail, which I will spare you. If you've read this far, thanks. I know that must have been pretty tedious.
I'll be back to my silly, vacuous self next post. Just needed to unload all of this. Hope your weekend is a good one.