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  • Writer's pictureSam

Reflections on a Retreat

I just returned from being with about 100 men on a retreat in South Carolina. These were men of faith, ranging in age from late 20’s to early 80’s with most on the back nine of life. Even though this was a church (and golf!) retreat, most of the men with whom I spoke were not primarily interested in theology or sports but in relationships.

By and large, these men were very successful. By all outward appearances, these men were living good lives. They drove nice cars, enjoyed good health, were respected by their peers, and shot low handicaps. Yet, when they spoke from their hearts in a safe environment, many were grieving broken relationships—with spouses, children, even grandchildren.

Many of these men have reached the stage of life which psychologist Erik Erikson called “Integrity vs Despair.” This is the final stage of life—not necessarily physically but at least psychologically—when men take stock of all that has gone before. In other words, did my life matter? Was I true to my values? Was my life integrated—were my actions integrated with, or disconnected from, my values?

Many are looking back and, despite success in other areas, are questioning if investments in their portfolios or reputations matched their investments in relationships.

These reflections are consistent with what we know of Attachment Theory, that we are born with a life-long need to be emotionally attached to significant others. It is only in these attachments that we find our meaning and identity.

As mentioned, these were men of faith, the Christian Faith, which itself is rooted in the reality of Attachment. One of the foundational principles of the Christian Faith is the conviction that God exists in Trinity—that is, in relationship. And this relationship within the Godhead is not static but dynamic. There is power and love in that mysterious union.

At the beginning of John’s Gospel, he tries to paint a vivid word picture of this dynamic relationship. In English, the Gospel begins “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The English word “with” in that context translates the original Greek word “pros,” which actually means “toward,” implying a sense of movement. It is the root from which we get words like “proceed” and “prosecutor.” It implies a dynamic, “in your face” sort of relationship, not just motionless proximity.

So, there is a lesson here for all of us—younger and older. Invest in relationships. At the end of all our lives, those are the things that will matter. Those investments will bring lasting—even eternal—joy while focusing on “things that will pass away” will ultimately break our hearts.

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