Christian Living,  Masculine Journey

Cultivating Deep Friendships

Recently, I attended an event for Christian men and was randomly paired with a group of men who, to my surprise, quickly jumped into deep water by sharing their hearts with what was essentially a group of strangers.

It’s interesting that some men will dive right into the deep end while others will only dip their toes in the shallows with conversation on ACC basketball or who got voted off of the latest episode of Survivor. Most of what was shared centered on a feeling common among many men – they are lonely and struggle to cultivate deep friendships with other men.

Talking about marital struggles or their heart’s desires can feel emotionally risky so, many men default to inch deep and mile wide conversations focused around sports or hobbies but rarely (or never) will they wade into the depths of vulnerability to become truly “known“. Over the years, this lack of emotional maturation can push a man further and further into the shallows and leave them with a deepening sense of isolation and loneliness. Studies in recent years continue to echo the implication that male isolation and loneliness have a dramatic effect on mental health.

Friends, we are not meant to live in the shallows. We are meant for deep water.

Yes, our ship may be safe in the harbor but that is not what a ship is built for. We are meant to live in the depth of community with one another. We were created to grow and thrive at the intersection of our lives, allowing iron to sharpen iron as it says in Proverbs.

Men in particular view the confession of their struggles as an admission of weakness, making them feel at least partially complicit in the enemies lie that “I do not have what it takes”. A man who believes he has nothing to offer will often go into hiding, minimizing his gifts and grafting on to anything that allows him to numb out and avoid dealing with the deep issues of his heart. In Marked Men for Christ, we have a beautiful, Spirit-led 44 hour experiential ministry weekend that guides men from the shallows into the deep waters where his heart was meant to sail.

To let someone into the inner sanctum of your heart is risky. It pushes the delicate boundary of being “in control” vs being “truly known”. Author Brene Brown puts it this way, owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.”

So, what can you do to take a step in the right direction?

Start small. No one expects you to stand up in front of a large audience and confess your darkest sins but consider taking a baby step and invite a friend to coffee in an effort to start an honest conversation about the challenges of being a Christian in a broken world.

Ask open-ended questions and connect over shared experiences. Deep connections are built when we discover that we are not alone in our struggles.

Listen with empathy. Don’t offer advice or try to “fix” your friends situation. God is found in the wrestling…and in the weight-lifting, deep breath provided by a confidant who will begin to share your burdens.

Friends, if we view our lives through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we realize that our lives are meant to be a fragrant offering, poured out into the lives of others. His Spirit, lived in and through us, tell the redemptive story of our journey through the hardships and brokenness of life so that our testimony of the grace and mercy of Jesus in our lives can be poured out like a healing salve to the broken and hurting souls that God places in our paths.

So, here’s to taking the first, small step my friends!

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