I haven’t talked much about this, with any of you. Actually, I haven’t talked about this much with myself until recently.
I hope that previous sentence makes more sense as you read on.
My college years were very difficult. I faced some unfortunate circumstances, a load of loss, and a lot of darkness. Though I was born and Baptized into a Catholic family, my Faith was episodic at best during this dark time.
From 1999-2002 I experienced the loss of my three surviving grandparents, the divorce of my parents, the sudden death of an amazing friend, cancer’s long march to death for a mentor, my father’s moving away from our family, the devastating loss of an important relationship, and other difficult blows. Drugs, alcohol, and addiction wrecked the lives of many people in my circle, and took the life of two. I’m already dipping my toe into the T.M.I. puddle, so I’ll move on with the effect of these causes: I was angry, violent, prone to using people, unable to accept love, and generally misguided. What happened next as I experienced this loss and abandonment was predictable: I fell away from Christ, I tried to do it on my own, and I made decisions of which I am not proud.
My guess is that many of you can relate, if not with my circumstances at least with this pattern.
Slowly, with the help of amazing mentors I regained my footing. I was functional, even “successful”, despite still carrying around a lot of hurt.
Enough about me…this isn’t about me, it’s about you.
Here’s an interesting task for you: go to your Bibles and notice when Christ tells those he’s healed miraculously to “pick up your mat”, or “go and sin no more”, or “tell no one”. It happens ALL THE TIME! Christ never just heals; he reminds the healed of the very burden from which he saved them. Why does He do that?
I had been on my mat for years, now I was trying to ignore its existence…and then an extraordinary thing happened: I went to Cloisters on the Platte on December 27, 2018.
Mr. Mark Simmons and Mr. Stuart Garay joined me and 60 other men for four days of silence, 11 “conferences”, countless prayer sessions, and one bubble of time in which we told Jesus something Monsignor Nemec has reminded us: “Lord, your will: nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.”
OK, so it wasn’t that easy…actually it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. But He got us there. And actually, that was the point – allowing God room to work.
Within the “sacred ground” that is the Cloisters on the Platte, we experienced God in a way that not only allowed me to acknowledge my “mat”, but also showed me what a gift it is in my life. My hurts, pains and abandonment were the very vehicles Christ used to create a life I don’t deserve: a beautiful wife, four amazing children, a Cathedral Family that trusts me and nurtures my own family, and a level of empathy, compassion and understanding that I hope you all see me express with the Eagle children and staff.
More than anything, however, Cloisters on the Platte gave Christ the space and silence necessary so I could hear him say, “I was always right there. I’m not going anywhere. Choose to turn to me.”
Here’s why I’m divulging all of this: This is about you.
You’ve been hurt. You’ve been abandoned. You’ve made bad choices. You’re a dude, so it’s hard to be vulnerable, and nearly impossible to let your walls down. I get it: we need to provide, protect and be the strength that shows no weakness.
You and me – we are the same in these ways.
In a world full of crosses we bear (some of our own making, if we’re being honest), Cloisters on the Platte and our Lady of Good Counsel are gifts that will allow us to realize the power of leaving room for Christ to work in our lives. We do not carry those crosses or those mats alone. We men can provide, protect and be strong while accepting that help. Matter of fact, we will never realize our full potentials as husbands, fathers and/or professionals unless we accept Him into those roles in our life. I want to encourage all of you to give yourself a break, release yourself to Christ, and take the step.
I do not write this for those “on fire”. Rather, I write this for the hurt, the sorrowful, the confused, and those who appear lukewarm on the surface but who are burning with pain underneath. Like I said, this is about YOU.
Christ awaits. He waits for you.
And then click here.
Also, join me and other men in the Seven Sundays of St. Joseph Devotion (starting February 3rd) by emailing me at Jeremy-Ekeler@cdolinc.net or texting me at 531-333-3519 with your commitment to join this underappreciated tradition. I will send you links and resources, perhaps even start a Sunday evening prayer group (depending on interest).
Oh, and here’s the part where I come clean, because I lied. These words aren’t about me and they aren’t about you. It never was and it never is. It’s about Christ, and it always will be.
If you’d like to hear more about our experiences, Mr. Garay, Mr. Simmons and I have all committed to being open to conversations (especially with men) about our experience with Christ at the Ignatian Retreat house, Cloisters on the Platte.