It’s been five years since I heard the words I needed to hear my entire life. It’s the same words I need to hear now too. I am still me after all, and my search for my real self keeps going and going. I’m like anybody else, guilty of trying to get my identity through so many things that really don’t matter. And even if I take the search to parts of my life that really do matter, they’re not going to be able to provide the answer I need.
It’s interesting, in our walk with God we hesitate to ask questions that we really need to hear the answer for. Questions like “What do you think of me?” and “Are you proud of me?” For too much of my life, asking God these types of questions didn’t happen because it could have been too revealing. I wasn’t too sure I would like the answer that I would get if I did ask.
Back to five years ago. I decided to take part in a Boot Camp weekend organized by New Wilderness Adventures. Many men like myself made the trek to the River Ministries Lodge in Rutherfordton, NC to focus on becoming the men that God made us to be. All of us on different parts of the journey, but still the same one nonetheless.
I didn’t know a soul going in, but I knew I was gathering with kindred spirits because the weekend was based on the themes of my favorite book, Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. I couldn’t wait to join up with other guys who wanted more of the freedom and adventure that Eldredge wrote about.
The Boot Camp Weekend was built around fellowship. Fellowship between all of us guys and fellowship with the Father. I experienced both in a way that I had never experienced before that weekend, and it was life-changing. I’m truly grateful for the friends and allies who are in my life now that all connect back to the men I was introduced to at Boot Camp.
The most life-changing part of the weekend, however, was the fellowship with the Father. We were presented with opportunities to spend time with God after the sessions, to ask questions and to hear answers. The questions were directly related to the deepest parts of our hearts. Questions that only the Father can answer.
I will never forget one of those moments, sitting in a chair away from the group, along a cut path in the tall grass. We were sent out to ask God four questions. I wrote down what I heard the Father say to each one.
There’s a part of this experience that feels like your mind is just making the answers up, that you’re just thinking what you really want to hear instead of what God is really saying. But if you’re like me, your heart will know the real answer when you hear it.
When I asked “God, how do you see me?”, I heard and wrote down some perfectly acceptable and great words but I knew they didn’t hit home strong enough. Who wouldn’t want to hear “Mighty” or “Victorious” or similar powerful descriptions? That was great and all but then I heard the Father whisper: “A True Son.”
I was desperate to hear this, more than I can ever explain. My heart needed to hear every word, just like God said it to me. This is what I heard in those words:
A True Son = One of many. One who belongs. Real. Not Counterfeit. Part of the Family. Straight from the Father.
I was 34 years old at the time of Boot Camp, but the wounds from missing my father had been with me for 31.5 of those years because he passed away when I was so young. I had experienced the goodness of God in so many ways since his passing, but still felt aimless, directionless and incomplete. Deep down, I felt missed. Overlooked. Unfathered. Much different than A True Son who knows what he’s made of, who knows his identity.
On the last day of Boot Camp, there was an opportunity for some of the guys who had accepted Christ during the weekend to be baptized in the river beside the lodge. I had known Christ as my Savior for several years at that point and had been baptized in church two different times, but it’s not every day you get a chance to be baptized in a river, like the old days. So I asked to be baptized in my new name, A True Son. I will never forget the rush from Mark Folk baptizing me into that cold river water. It was awesome!
It’s five years later and yes, wounds are still with me, because they don’t normally get healed overnight. But these are the wounds that can only be truly healed by a True Father. The words “A True Son” are still with me too. I remember talking with Greg Sailors about that moment a couple of years later at a bonfire and Greg told me that “God is still speaking those words over you.” I have needed that reminder so many times over the last few years. The good thing is, the words are just as True now as they were then. I am and will always be A True Son.
Alan is on the adventure with New 4RMations as a friend, participant, supporter and board member. He experiences all of God’s goodness with his wife and five children. Hear more from Alan on his podcast, Rasslin’ with God.