I just returned from an amazing men’s weekend retreat at Community Church of Waterford up in Goshen, Indiana. The main speaker at the event was Chris Mishler, an incredible man of God. I had the honor and privilege to speak about Reconciliation for one of the four sessions. I also shared my story about being free from the addition of pornography.
There was a certain phrase I repeated several times during the two-day retreat. “I’m just out in the middle of the ocean, hanging with God.”
I was in way over my head. First of all, up until Friday night at eight, I wasn’t a speaker. It was my first men’s conference. It was the first time I stood in front of a group of people and had a specific topic to speak about. It was the first time I shared my addiction story in front of fifty-five men. You get the idea…a lot of firsts for me.
The week leading up to the men’s retreat was insane. The Friday before, I was in the emergency room at 1am with the worst stomach pains I had ever experienced. I don’t do doctors. I don’t do hospitals. I don’t do medicine. Meaning, I don’t’ get sick. The throw-up bug can circulate through the house with my wife and two daughters becoming very ill, and I won’t get touched. It’s crazy.
This was different. It was a pain I had never encountered before. After pacing the house for nearly four and a half hours, I gave up, and my wife drove me to the ER. After a CT scan, blood and urine tests, the doctor had no idea what had caused it. Possible kidney stones, but nothing was conclusive.
I embarked on a three-day kidney cleanse just in case, only drinking apple juice and distilled water. I felt great for those three days. No pain at all. That Monday night, I decided to break the fast and try to eat. Big mistake. Started feeling some discomfort around 8:30, then by 9:30, it was all out pain. I took some medicine the ER doctor had given me and it allowed me to sleep.
On Tuesday, I felt extremely uncomfortable and bloated the entire day. I was afraid to eat anything due to the results of the day before. I decided to just drink juice and water again. Wednesday, I was feeling somewhat better, just extremely weak and tired. I still wasn’t able to eat anything except for some fruit. But, very little even at that.
The plan was for me to leave Wednesday at Midnight to make the ten-hour drive to Goshen. After the crazy weekend and few days of that week, my wife and I talked and prayed about what to do. There were concerns I might get halfway to Indiana and suddenly start having the excruciating pains again. What would I do?
What if I ate something while on the trip and the pain returned in full force? What if they got to the point where I needed to go to the hospital? All legitimate concerns.
I remember sitting on the couch Wednesday night, with tears running down my face, saying to my wife I knew God was telling me to just leave as planned and trust Him completely. Even though it was extremely difficult for her, my amazing wife said she would support my decision.
I went out Wednesday to go get a rental car, and my little ’93 Honda Civic was completely dead. My wife took me in the van, and when we arrived at Enterprise, they were just beginning to get the car cleaned up and ready. Turns out, they weren’t even sure if there was going to be a car for me to drive and then one showed up minutes before they were ready to close and right before I got there. Almost another setback to the trip.
At one point during the long drive, I remember hearing God say to me that it would be okay to eat food but to just be smart. The Thursday afternoon I arrived in Goshen, I ate some plain, grilled chicken and was fine. Turns out, I was able to eat the entire weekend and didn’t have one single problem. Yay, God!
We were busy the next day, Friday, getting last minute things prepared for the retreat that would start around four that afternoon. The men began to arrive, and I was able to meet and talk with some before dinner. It was great. After dinner, we had a time of worship before the two night sessions.
Chris Mishler spoke about repentance for the first session. It was incredible. At nine, it was my turn. I wasn’t as nervous as I expected to be. Mouth was pretty dry. Heartbeat was a little louder than usual. Face felt flushed. But, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was thinking it would be.
After the two sessions, we had free time where we could hang out and talk, sit around the bonfire, or play corn hole inside the church. It was great.
Around 1am, most everyone decided to go to bed. I woke up at 3am with the need to visit the little boy’s room. As I approached the bathroom, I noticed a young man sitting in one of two chairs out front. Still in the trying-to-wake-up-and-everything-was-fuzzy stage, I asked him why he hadn’t crashed yet.
His reply, “Well, I’m used to being homeless and not getting much sleep, so I’m good.”
I don’t think what he said exactly registered in my sleep-deprived brain, and I continued on to the restroom. When I left, I mentioned there were more couches in the room where I was sleeping and he could crash there. I got back to my futon, laid down, and pulled the nice, warm blanket up to my chin.
Within seconds, I heard the Lord say, “Go back out there and talk to him.”
My brain immediately began to think rationally. I knew I was going to be driving home the very next day at Midnight. I knew I would probably not have any sleep before attempting the ten-hour return drive. I needed every single ounce of rest I could get.
All I had to do was close my eyes and get right back to the nice dreams I had already been having. I was so comfortable and warm and not at all thrilled about the prospect of getting back up.
“Go back out there and talk to him.”
When I heard the Lord tell me again, I didn’t hesitate. I threw on some socks, my hoodie, and started back towards the bathroom. I had no idea what to say. I had no idea if the young man even wanted to talk. I had no idea why the Lord wanted me to go back out there.
I was still out in the middle of the ocean, hanging with God.
To be continued…