Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Broke Down Bible Club

A few years ago my former church ran a Thursday morning men’s Bible study. Shortly after I became a Christian I decided to go. I did not know anyone at the session, so I walked in and sat down. The pastor gave the lesson, and then told us to break into groups.
Everyone else was already in a group so I looked around, picked out some guys sitting together, walked over, and asked if I could join. We ended up meeting for several years on Thursday mornings after the Church series ended, and then for reasons I really can’t recall stopped getting together. But we did begin to develop strong relationships with one another.
Groups like this are a great idea. Unlike women, men don’t share emotions well. I won’t pretend to try and explain the reasons for this, we just don’t. It has something to do with our reluctance over vulnerability and intimacy.
But as the famous poet said, “no man is an island.” I am a prime example of what happens when you try and go it alone. We live in an outrageously complex world, and just when we start thinking that things could not possibly become worse they do. Madness and mayhem seem to be the order of the day.
When you try and navigate through life in this sort of world by yourself bad things start happening. Things like arrogance, pride, selfishness, and what I call the “master of the universe” complex start to shape who and what you are. Men must have fellowship to, among other reasons, reveal who they really are, talk about sports and shooting things, make fun of each other, and prop each other up when the bad stuff happens.
And we need it to keep each other real. I am around a lot of very successful people, and that includes folks who pack some pretty big egos. I publicly plead guilty to this myself, and it remains a life challenge for me. Guys are good at calling each other out when someone gets too big for their britches. Being in a study group is a good cure for egotism.
We broke ranks for a while, and then one of the guys sent me an email that his marriage had failed. Right around that time another one of the guys saw his marriage fail. I knew it was time to reconvene the Thursday morning group. I actually went out to where I thought I would find one of them at church on Sunday, eyeballed him among hundreds, and told him it was time to get going again. As an added bonus another one of the boys was there, and I grabbed him too.
We do a light Bible study. Right now we are beginning Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. It is a study of Christian spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, fasting, simplicity, and study. Being a Christian is a way of life, and like an athlete you have to train for it. Having a deep relationship with God doesn’t happen just by showing up on Sunday or studying application. You train for it.
Then we talk and share. Everybody has issues in life, I don’t care who you are. Since we reconvened I went to court to sit with one of the guys when the judge officially dissolved his marriage, then stood with him while he cried out in the hallway. The other guy got divorced too, found an internet bride (which raised a few eyebrows among us), and then realized he still loved his ex-wife just before getting hitched again. One of the guys can’t find a job. Several of us have substance issues. We talk about this stuff, and in the case of the internet bride, tease mercilessly. That, folks, is fair game.
I thought I was the relatively stable one in the bunch. Then Lynne died. My crew was there for me.
After a few weeks of disruptions that kept us from meeting we finally got back together last week. Somebody said, “this has to be the most broke-down Bible club in town.” We hadn’t named ourselves before, so we officially adopted  “The Broke-Down Bible Club.” One of the old chums showed up; he has the closest thing to a normal life. He was named “Director of Normality,” the joke being, of course, that there is no such thing.
This is guy-bonding at a deep level.
You’re invited (if you’re a guy). If you think you’re really broke-down you have stiff competition. We could use some more normal men too. We come from all walks of life.

We don’t have many rules, but here are a few.

1.    Omerta. For those of you who don’t know what Omerta is, it is the Mafia code of silence. When we get together and share ourselves as deeply as we do what we talk about doesn’t leave the room. Period. (I know, I sort of broke the rule by telling you about us.)

2.    Be real. No phonies allowed. The self-righteous, and those who think they have the only correct view of scripture are discouraged from coming.

3.    No politics.

4.    Don’t come because your wife thinks it is a good idea. Come because you want/need to.

5.    We start at 6:30 a.m. every Thursday and stop at 7:30 so folks can get to work. Come to the back of Hillvue Heights, go up the elevator to the third floor, and come on in.

I know walking into a group of strangers can be intimidating. Trust me, you’ll be well-received.

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