I always thought that it was less acceptable for men, than women, to talk about their feelings. I mean let’s face it, it’s not the most masculine thing for a man to talk about his feelings. I often found myself feeling alone, unable to share for the fear of being judged as overly sensitive. It is in this way that I, as well as other men, have been lied to that I cannot talk about my struggles or hurts. I had put up a façade of being strong, when in fact I didn’t even know what it meant to be “strong.”

I realized at Encounter, however, that I was not the only one wanting to share my inner self. Most, if not all, men at Encounter dealt with struggles, hurts, and pains similar to mine and had the desire to share. Encounter provided an outlet that men were deprived of to gather and understand that we all go through, or have gone through, similar circumstances, hurts, and pressure. In fact, it took more strength for these men to step out of their comfort zone and publicly unearth the pain rarely shared today. No longer were they putting on a façade of being strong, but by exposing their weakness, they showed the true meaning of what it meant to be strong. After all, only the strong can bravely admit that they are weak and in need of God’s mercy and grace.

The first topic introduced at Encounter – the Father’s Heart – disembarked strength in me. I realized in order to step up to be a man of Christ I had to first understand God’s heart towards me. With the given illustration of the parable of the prodigal son, my own dad imaged to in mind. I realized that my dad gave up his pride, wants, and dignity in order to be a father and to let his family have their wishes. Even more so, God gave His precious Son to let me have an eternal life. But when I thought about how much was I willing to give myself to Him, I was ashamed to admit not much. Much of this time I put up a mask of being strong and stable, but I was nowhere near ready to give myself up much close to my dad yet alone to God. I realized being strong did not mean that I need to appear to withstand everything that comes in my way but that I had to trade in my weak self to the Lord.

At Encounter, we took steps in closing doors to our sins and struggles, proclaiming and declaring the Lord’s victory over them. Personally, I had to close the door to feeling lonely, for the Lord was with me and my fellow brothers on the side. Although there was beauty in sharing, the true impact came when we ministered to each other to overcome our struggles and sins through the Lord’s triumph and healing.

Encounter placed a strong urge in me to instill in my cell group the same spirit that moved hearts at Encounter. I have been given the honor to be an intern-leader for the Westside Single Men’s cell, and I countlessly thought of my cell brothers at Encounter. I know that the same kind of spirit can dwell at my cell meetings, allowing my cell brothers to know that we have an entire year to share in the safety of each other, to minister through prayer, to proclaim with God’s name that we can declare victory over our sins, and strive to be the holy men He calls us to be. If there is one take away, it is that I find strength in recognizing that I am not alone in pursuing the Father’s heart, desiring to become more like Christ, and trying to abide by the Holy Spirit in my daily wrestle.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai . . . he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.” (Exodus 34:29) Like Moses, I believe the faces of the men who attended Encounter were radiating when they came down. We, ourselves, might have not recognized, but I firmly believe that Encounter was an enlightening beginning where we would face each day with our face radiant. So on behalf all of those who attended Encounter, I would like to affirm that we are no longer slaves to our fear or sin, but that we “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14) Lastly, to all men reading this “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Eph 6:10)