The first time I walked in the door I tried to just sit in the back of the room. Some leader got up and made us all pack into the front 3 rows. Low key but intense worship, lots of hugging, at least 7 uncomfortable long hugs with strangers. Most of the guys were confident, a bit brash. Perfect strangers kept asking probing questions and then they would casually break the norms and customs I could hide behind. Men kept tossing truth at me like a challenge. And yet, there was this love in the room, a thick camaraderie I remembered from the military. The leaders were walking in a victory I never thought was possible. The message wasn't the high fluff of polished sermons meant to inspire me with God's promise of an easy fix. The message was born of men walking in unconditional love with practical responses to real pains and an authenticity I could connect with and trust. I was hurt, confronted, offended, and weirdly enthralled. There was a power here. God was here. What in the world was this place? Why aren't you all groveling in unending repentance for your wicked sins and failures? Where was the shame? Yeah, there's something here and I wanted it. Hope was rising and besides, I thought I can just sit here in the back of the room and get better. After the talk the speaker said, "the best decision you can make right now is to come up here and join a group." Yeah.. I can do this. So I jumped up after the talk to join a group. A bunch of us new guys gathered around this cocky man up front. He said something like "This isn't church. You are not going to come here and hide in the crowd. You've got to do something and participate. So, thanks for coming, glad you enjoyed the talk. Here's the deal, are you willing to put skin in the game? If so, pay up and get in a group or get out." What the heck! WHAT THE HECK! Where do they get off charging money for this and then dare to tell me to leave if I don't want to pay. Who are they? Looking back, I see that right there, my battle began. This room exposed my pains, my fears and all my internal monsters. Telling me I had to participate and pay was a huge trigger for me. They forced a healthy confrontation by not letting me be passive about money or my commitment. In or out? I was faced with my problems, a promise, and a battle. Would I fight for freedom, would I fight this battle or run away again? I joined, and It's been one of the top decisions of my life. See you Monday.