“In the woods, we return to faith and reason. There, I feel that nothing can befall me in life - no disgrace, no calamity - which nature cannot repair.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
STORY OF THE WOODS
The comedian John Mulaney once said, "Men don't have friends. They have wives who have friends who have husbands."
It’s true, guys can be hard to befriend. They’re a curious cocktail of mystery, machismo, rebellion, and self-reliance.
Each summer, my wife and I host a gathering of families at a retreat center in Buena Vista, Colorado. I come to love these guys over the course of the weekend. But when they first arrive, it can be a bit awkward. They don't always smile or make eye contact. They nod at you in lieu of words and occupy themselves with their luggage to avoid meaningful conversation.
But over the course of a few days, after we've competed in games, laughed at each other's jokes, and bonded over barbecue, something amazing happens: the wall comes down. They laugh together, they rib each other, they dance with their daughters. And by the time they leave on Sunday afternoon, they talk about how much the weekend changed their lives.
This wall - whatever it may be - is the reason there's an epidemic of isolation among men. Contrary to popular belief, every man is indeed an island. An island to their own emotions, struggles, fears, and beliefs.
Somehow - whether because of an ornery old man, a belligerent boss, or simply the testosterone coursing through their veins - men have been conditioned to not let any other guy have a leg-up on them physically, emotionally, or otherwise.
And with no release-valve, these guys take out their frustrations at home and "drain the emotional lives out of their women," as one wife described it in Harper's Bazaar.
For the conscientious man who knows he needs a band of brothers, his choices are to:
1. Join a men's ministry at church where an overweight Bible thumper in a motorcycle vest invites him to Waffle House on Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 5 AM for Bible study.
2. Continue hanging out with the boys from high school who help him reach previously-unobtained levels in Assassin's Creed but do nothing to help him become a better man.
3. Look to women - wives or otherwise - who pose no threat to his manhood and are clearly more adept at relationships - as an emotional boost to his ego and risk becoming affairs.
These scattered options leave most men with no choice but to go it alone. They hole-up, bottle-up, and clam-up until something sets them over the edge, and then they blow up.
Last year, I asked some guys to join me in the woods of Virginia for a special project. We built a fire tower. We didn't need a fire tower. No one ever asked us to build a fire tower. But it was the best excuse I could come up with to hang out with this incredible group of guys over a few weekends.
Some were handier than others. Some brought tools. Others brought jokes. We hauled several tons of lumber up a mountain and worked in the rain. We shivered in the cold, taking turns to escape the downpour inside our makeshift shelter. We accomplished something great together, but we also forged something rare among men in our society today: a brotherhood.
We still exchange text messages, share funny memes, pray for each other, and call each other in times of need.
Hear me on this. I don’t believe we are ever given a great purpose outside the context of community.
It’s a symbiotic relationship where each man’s potential is realized with the help of each other. We achieve more together than we ever could apart.
This is why we created Men of the Woods.
It’s a not-so-society of men who want to be great at work, great at home, and great in the world through their relationship with each other and with God.
If you join us, I can assure you of one thing: you won’t be the same person next year as you are right now.
It’s time to come out of the shadows. Reach your God-given potential. And do so with a band of brothers like you have never known before. It won’t always feel comfortable. And it won’t ever be easy. But nothing good ever is.