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This last week I had the opportunity to journey with seven other “middle-aged men.” We walked a section of the “The Way of St. James,” or the Camino de Santiago.

A former attorney now pastor from Indianapolis, a retired Executive Tech professional from Massachusetts, an MBA and ministry guru from Georgia, a Sales professional from Chicago, a retired SWAT policeman from Florida, an investment advisor from Atlanta, an ex-marine missionary to missionaries from Greece, and me.

Forty-five to 65-year-old men from all areas and stages of life…

The Way, (if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it!), is a 500-mile walk over the mountains of France and the countryside of Northern Spain. The only way I can describe it is that it is magical… and if you allow it to, it can transform your life.

In 2016, 277,915 “Pilgrims” walked the way of St. James.

The eight of us met in Barcelona, Spain, took a train for four hours up to Pamplona, took a bus for a couple hours to St. Jean, France and walked a couple hours straight up a mountain, to our first Albergue (hostel in Spanish)!

Every morning we would gather to discuss questions to ask ourselves as we journeyed and questions to ask one another. And every evening we would gather to debrief the day.

We asked questions like, “What are some of the gaps in my life that I need to work on, or that maybe you/my family sees that I can’t see?” and “How do you manage relationships? Are you overcapacity with work, family, etc. Do you want a full life or are you happy with just one or two friends?” We asked what a true “Elder” looks like; with relationships, accountability, dependability, discipleship. And what works? What’s not working?

Through some tears, a lot of laughter and even some frustration, we pressed into vulnerability and deep honesty.

One of the highlights of our discussions was on the four areas of influence we have; SELF/FAMILY/TRIBE/KINGDOM and how are we stewarding each of these areas? We took a day and focused on each one as we walked in silence.

Does your wife ever give you a “bid?” Have you ever heard her say, “Well that was interesting!” and just leave it out there for you to comment or, maybe more subtly, just chuckle at her desk? How do we pay attention to the subtle bids our family and co-workers give us so that we can enter into their lives at deeper levels? And also learn how to live in the “NOW” with each of them? The discussion around this was brilliant and educating for me!

Read more about “bids” for emotional connection here.

Wives, if you are reading this, please allow and encourage your husband to go on a journey like this one. Young people, encourage your dad, your uncle or grandpa to go beyond work, beyond just doing what they know and take a journey that is uncomfortable with other men.

One of our men we did the Camino with last year said this as we walked; “Dead at 40, buried at 70,” and it struck our hearts as we know so many that are on that path.

Men, it is time. We not only have to press into a larger journey, but we must model it for the next generation.

The rate of suicide is highest among middle-age men in America!  

The question we all have to ask ourselves is this – In my seclusion as a man can I find significance or is life just about slowly dying?

We must be intentional.

(If you are interested in joining us on the Camino, and you are an elder, please email me!)