My CLC Experience - Mark (continued)

I have been asked to tell “My CLC Experience”. I am doing so gladly! But let me back up just a bit … I am my parent’s third and final child. I had a traditional Catholic upbringing:  church on Sundays, celebrating all holidays with our extended family, typical sibling arguments, and my parents instilled a strong sense of right and wrong in me and my older brother and sister. I had a typical school experience that included playing football which was my ticket to college. I attended Mercyhurst College, a Christian school in Erie, PA and pursued a degree in mathematics as well as a teaching certificate. Upon graduation in 1990 I earned a job teaching mathematics in the Pittsburgh Public School System and have had a productive career there for the past twenty-two years.

As I said it was all very typical. I did not experience any earth shattering deaths, I have been blessed with job security so I have never worried about money, I married my college girlfriend at age twenty-five and we had our one and only son three years later. Good family, good education, great wife and son, job security, no tragedies. Life was good! I’m a strong believer in “if it aint broke … don’t fix it.”

My wife and I did believe in God and we went to church most Sundays because that’s just what we did. However she wanted more out of our church experience and she wanted more out of our faith in God. I simply went to church on Sunday with her and resisted all the Bible Study meetings, Small Groups, and other opportunities to develop my faith outside of the Sunday service. She was growing in her faith and over some time convinced me to join a couples group with her. I had no real desire to join but it was apparent that it was important to her so I went along.

To my surprise I really got a lot out of that small group and started to read the Bible. I realized that the best way for me to be the best father to our son was through my faith. All during my time at church I was encouraged to join a CLC group. All I could think about was: two years, twelve men, two hours per week, memory verses, and homework! There was no chance I’m doing that! After all, I am a school teacher and a 6:00 am meeting time does not fit my teaching schedule and I hate homework! And there was no way I was getting up on Saturday morning at 6:00 for CLC … Fast this same thought forward for several years to the time I was asked to be in a Thursday NIGHT CLC group. The 6:00 am excuse was gone but that was no big deal, I was still very comfortable saying no to doing the CLC thing. However, something had begun to happen … I was growing in my faith and trying to make God a bigger part of my life. Now it seemed that He was giving me an opportunity to participate in CLC. As I said my faith was growing and, although CLC was still something I had no real desire to participate in, it was time for me to put my “money where my mouth was”, trust in God, and join this group.

I was floored by the CLC Overnight Kickoff. I had never met any of the other eleven guys in my group. Following the lead of our facilitators, I was amazed and honored that these complete strangers trusted me with the most personal and private stuff in their lives, and this was just our initial meeting! During the ensuing two years my faith, knowledge, and trust in God grew at a rate that is far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Similarly, although I had no desire for new friends, the relationship with my CLC brothers also flourished to a point that amazed me. We really did do life together, and we learned to do life the way God wants us to do life. Obviously living life the way God wants us to is a never ending process that comes with peaks and valleys. For me, the valleys seem much shallower as I rely on God as my number one support and have a group of men to walk through them with me.

As our two years were winding down I was down right angered that it was going to end. I had become reliant upon my weekly meetings with my guys. In school I was never too big on homework (there is a confession from a teacher!!) but my CLC homework enabled me to keep a focus on God throughout the week and with Him in my head and heart I continue to strive to live the “exchanged life”. In spite of my objections, that CLC group did end and I knew I had to do something to keep my faith growing.

The best way to keep my faith growing was to lead a CLC group. A few months after my group ended I hooked up with two guys from that group and we agreed to facilitate and lead another group. It took a few months for our schedules to line up as well as find the guys but about one year after our first group ended we had the overnight kick off for our new group. I was confident that we would not be able to replicate the relationships and growth that took place in our first group as it was so special. Now we are in the last month of this new group and as it turns out I was right and wrong at the same time. We did not replicate the bonds and growth that we experienced in our first group but God most certainly did. It is amazing that I feel the same connection with my current group as I had with my first group. I have learned that is what happens with all relationships that have God at the center of them. Although the learning and experiences in my second group are different from my first they have been just as influential in my walk with God. I continue to grow closer to my Heavenly Father and I rely on Him in all circumstances. I am a better man, husband, and father as a result.

It sounds like a cliché to say CLC changed my life. I think it is more appropriate to say that God has changed my life through my relationship with Him and CLC has been a phenomenal way for me to strengthen that relationship.