Timothy-Buffalo, NY

“Pain that is not transformed is transferred”.  How sad for me to think that the God of the Universe, my Father in heaven, whom I now know loves me more than my wildest dreams and deepest longings could ever grasp, would let me go to Samson unnoticed, unaffected and untouched.  I was only going at the request of my buddy to keep him company. I didn’t want to go, but God had other plans. Nothing could keep us away.  Not my protests, feelings of intense fear, the belief that I would get nothing out of it, nor a hurricane that had, just days before, left a trail of devastation across the state, but strangely left that small area surrounding the retreat center unaffected.  Only by the sheer grace of God did I make it there, but I was to discover that the grace of God is mysterious and endless.

The Samson retreat is one to be experienced, not described.  To try and put into words the activities and their powerful impact, or the absolutely stunningly beautiful moments, symbolism, self-insights and the unbreakable bonds formed with some of the most authentic and courageous men I’ve ever met, would do them all an enormous disservice. It was one of the most powerful, intense, cleansing, and bonding experiences I have ever had in my life.  Upon arrival I was struck immediately by the beauty of the place, by the shy smiles of the other men in greeting, and how out of place I did NOT feel. Discomfort, not fitting in, and feeling “other than”, are consistent struggles I’ve dealt with my whole life, but that was not the case here. That first night, again wondering what I was doing there, I remember saying to God, “I’m glad I’m here to keep Brian company, but I know this isn’t really for me, (like so much in life). It’s OK if you want to ignore me, I understand the others are more important”.  I’d spent a lifetime feeling disenfranchised from the world of men, felt thoroughly unlovable, and didn’t like any part of myself.  I was wrestling with severe addictions, self –imposed isolation, and self-loathing of epic proportions.  But God, in a gentle whisper, did away with my fears like they were nothing.  Little did I know He planned to show me that I was so loved, that I was just as important and worth healing as the other men, that he wanted good things for me, and that He really, really does, make all things new.  One thing I learned was that all men are alike.  The leaves of the tree may look a little different, but at the trunk and the roots we’re all similar, no one better, or worse, than the next.  How amazing to discover this after so much time of being deceived into thinking otherwise.

Slowly but powerfully throughout the weekend, God’s love began to break down the walls I’d been building my whole life. Walls that were so vast, and ran so deep that I couldn’t even sense where they began or ended. Walls so heavy and constantly morphing that I could not tell them apart from the very fabric of my inner soul.  These walls were built of the stones, steal and mortar of the defense mechanisms, rationalizations, wounds, fears, and abandonments I’d experienced starting at a very young age.  And yet, God in all his perfection, in all His love, in all His power, majesty and presence, began to chip those walls apart.  Once they began to come down, the real healing could begin.  Healing is a journey.  Christ loves us too much to heal us instantaneously, because that would rob us of the joyful experience of getting our needs met gradually so healing can take place in the way that only our unique journey can require. He walks with us along the way to show us that He loves us enough to meet our needs, and use others to do so as well.  To be dependent on Him, because He wants us SO much to be His and to grow slowly so we have the chance to see Him work.  Only then can He use us to help others along their journeys, using the experiences from our own healing that He provided.

Samson began to transform my pain. That weekend was one of my first steps in realizing that I would be OK, and of learning to trust Him completely with my life.  I was now on the road to becoming the man God wants me to be, but know that He loves me just as I am, right now.  At Samson I found that one wild flower in a field of weeds, rocks and dirt.  Once I did, that flower began to multiply into a field of wildflowers that began to bring color, fragrance and joy into my life. I journey still, and will the rest of my days.  But I now know that God walks with me, wants good things for me, and wants my healing to take place through His unfathomable love and sacrifice on the cross. Through Samson, He has saved my life from darkness and certain death.  Truly, all things are possible with God.

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