Years ago, I was in a small four seat airplane, flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico to help scout a High School football team we were going to play the following week. There were four of us in the plane; the pilot, our line coach, our linebacker coach and myself. We were all macho coaches with an assignment to bring back a scouting report of a high powered team from Albuquerque.
As we gained altitude, the plane began to yaw and pitch and at one point we thought the plane was going to do a complete roll. We were in a massive thunder storm, being tossed around like a feather. To say the least we were all scared out of our wits.
I was seated beside our linebacker coach, a burly, muscular and outspoken man who had become a friend over the past years coaching together. I had shared Christ with him on a number of occasions and he dismissed me believing his need for a relationship with Jesus was not necessary because he had his life pretty well together and under control.
But now, we were in a situation that was beyond our control. Our pilot had to navigate our plane through this storm and we were along for the ride. Suddenly, I felt a large, hairy hand softly touch my hand. Then, ever so slowly, his fingers began to intertwine with my fingers. Two grown men, leaders of young men, riding in a tiny plane that felt worse than a rollercoaster, seated in the rear seat, holding hands. A few minutes into our hand holding, he leaned toward me and whispered, “Are you praying?” My reply to him was and emphatic, “Yes”.
Obviously, we made it through the storm, landed safely and things worked out. It wasn’t too many weeks later that my hand holding friend opened his heart and received the gift of salvation.
Let me tell you something. I don’t care how well you think you have things together, how independent and macho you think you need to be to measure up in our society, the fact is, we need each other. We need people to listen to us, touch us, encourage us and lift us up. We need people to love us and in that love, sometimes we need a good rebuke or word of correction.
I received this email from a friend who attends our Heartland Vineyard…
At the end of service today you asked us to reach out and hold someone’s hand as we prayed. A fellow softball player on the church team was behind me. We had only met a couple of times last year at the beginning of the season. To be honest I didn’t remember his name and pretty sure he didn’t know mine… but we knew each other (we had a connection).
Now, at first I was NOT going to reach out to hold anyone’s hand – but I was at church with just my children today so I had two hands available. I thought alright, I need to join hands with him. The grip was strong as mine was to him. Being men, holding hands with a brother may not be comfortable or something we do well so we defer to it as an extended firm handshake.
I wondered if he was praying for me as I was praying for him. The grip would tighten… the connection more bold. At the end of the prayer he came down to the floor. I asked how he was (seeing the distressed look on his face). Not good, he was being deployed to Afghanistan in three days and just found out two day earlier.
Now my plan before church was NOT to stay and pray for anyone. After all, I needed to get the kids home and have lunch for them. But with this newfound need I asked if I could pray with him. I shared what I believed God put in my heart.
Yes, it’s okay for men to get connected at church, to hold hands, to be brothers… to show we care. Today was a good service but I see now the most important time of the service is at the beginning in worship where we connect with God. And the five to ten minutes at the end where we choose to connect with each other. Running late we may miss part of really connecting with God. Being in a hurry to leave… we miss opportunities to connect and help each other.
Had you not asked us to join hands, had I not accepted the invitation and reached out I never would have known how much my “brother” needed a friend to pray with him.
Let me say without any apology. Real men hold hands. As your pastor, take this dear friends advice. Don’t miss worship, the time we give our love to God. And don’t miss the last few minutes where we receive love back from our Father in Heaven.
I love you all,