We all have practices in our lives that help keep us sane; help us navigate the challenges of life. Once a year, I engage in a ritual that has become absolutely essential to me. I am part of what I’ve heard Pastor Rick Warren calls a “microgroup.” My microgroup is a small group of three heads of school, just like me, from all around the country: Little Rock, and Charlotte, and Philadelphia. We alternate meeting in each other’s cities. We then retreat to the country, where we commiserate, share stories, and laugh about our lives. We encourage each other, give each other counsel, and pray for each other over lots of fires and red meat.
This tradition began several years ago, after some significant work-related trauma with one of our colleagues hit us all pretty hard. One of us emailed the others, and said, “This made me realize I don’t have any close friends. You three are going to be my friends.” This simple act of reaching out gave birth to my microgroup. When we’re together, we don’t have to explain what it’s like to do our jobs. We don’t have to give the context, set the tone, or elaborate. We speak in short-hand phrases and jargon, because we know. We understand. To use a silly line from an old, silly movie, “we speak each other’s unspoken language.”
And, this group isn’t one big gripefest, either, as you might imagine. We don’t complain about you. We don’t fuss about our boards. We don’t female-bash, or belly-ache about how our wives don’t understand us. We don’t enable each other in wrong or sinful patterns of thinking. Instead, we diagnose. We problem solve. We express gratefulness for the women to whom we’re married, and marvel at the fact that God managed to bring us what are probably the only four women on the planet gracious enough to put up with us. Where we have boards that are strong and good, we acknowledge that, too, and we work to help each other lead our boards (and our schools) better. What’s even more empowering, over the years we’ve come to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, primarily because we actually tell those things to one another. We call each other on those weaknesses, push each other, and make each other stronger.
All of this isn’t a once-a-year thing. We have a running text group, in which we contact each other at least once a week: seeking counsel on immediate issues, sharing funny stories, and offering prayer. We do life together, as a microgroup. As amigos.
God created us all for community, and as men, we need each other. The American ideal of the lone ranger, staking his claim out in the desert, fiercely independent, is a myth. Guys, if your faith is anemic, if you don’t feel like you’re leading your home, or your kids, or your workplace like you really think you should, chances are your “want to” is messed up. For most ordinarily healthy people (not struggling with addiction or mental illness), we do exactly what we want to do. If we’re not leading or loving like we want, chances are some other want, some other thing we think we need, has overtaken the want to lead and love. It’s not that you don’t want to lead and love well; it’s just that you, consciously or subconsciously, love the other thing (or things, usually tied up in selfish desire) more. The only way to fix that is to change our “want to,” to make our want to lead and love stronger than our want to do those things rooted in our self-desires.
The only way to fix it is by surrendering those lesser desires to Jesus, asking Him to heal you. Then, you’ve got to find some amigos, some guys just like you, guys who also want to fix their “want to’s,” who want to lead and love well. You’ve got to rope up with those guys, ask each other the hard questions, not enabling each other by griping about bosses and kids and wives, but pushing each other to lead, and love, and to good works. You guys have to pray for each other, to speak truth into each other, and you have to be willing to expose all the messiness in you, not play image management. This isn’t for the faint of heart; it requires courage and truth. But, it really is the way to the light. David had his mighty men. Jesus had the disciples. Paul had Barnabas, and John Mark, and Timothy, and Apollos. You think you’re any different? Pick up the phone, like my brave head of school friend did, and call a couple of guys. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they realize they need it, too.
Here’s the truth, how God designed it: life is a team sport, and you need amigos.