Liberated by Confession
About the Guest
Who really knows you? All of you – the good, the bad and the ugly? Raised on a dairy farm in the Amish and Mennonite community of Lancaster, PA, Wes Yoder reflects on his childhood and his relationship with his stern Amish father. Wes recalls a pivotal time in his elderly father’s life when his father’s honest confession tore down walls between them and changed their relationship forever.
Wes YoderRaised on a dairy farm in the Amish and Mennonite community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Wes Yoder's book, Bond of Brothers: Connecting with Other Men beyond Work, Weather and Sports, seeks to move men from silent and broken lives to the company of men where conversation, spiritual friendship and a life filled with friends and brothers define and complete God’s purposes for them. Wes and his wife, Linda, have two children and three grandchildren.
Who really knows you?
Liberated by Confession
Bob: Let me ask you a question, guys. How many really good guy friends do you have? Wes Yoder says that we need to capture a vision for how transformation occurs in relationship.
Wes: Jesus isn’t exactly interested in our modern form of Christian behavioral science. He’s really interested in radical heart transformation, and when we get to the point where we no longer have to have all the right answers, we no longer have to fix somebody, but I can just be with you, Bob, or I can be with you, Dennis, and we’re going to let Jesus come into this mix and show us how to live, and let him bring with his presence healing to us. He completely transforms the way you live.
Bob: This is FamilyLifeToday for Monday, June 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about why spiritual friendships are the central life-giving core of all healthy relationships among men.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. What is it about us – and I say “us” -- I mean us guys. What is it about guys in general that makes it tough for us to be as relational as women are? I mean, it’s easy for a group of women to get together and to kind of know each other instantly and connect. For guys it’s a little harder. Why is that?
Dennis: It’s a lot harder. It’s part of the DNA of how God made us as male and female. He made us so we’d need each other. He didn’t make male and female equal in every possible way; he made us so we would need each other.
Men need friendships over a lifetime. They really do, and since you’ve got a friendship with today’s guest that goes way back, -- and you just need to keep it in line, Bob, as you start reliving the past with this buddy of yours -- I want to give you the privilege of introducing our guest to our listeners.
Bob: Well, I want our listeners to get to know Wes Yoder. Wes and I – we were reminiscing – we first met in the early ‘80s. You were involved in working with artists and musicians and touring and recording, and I was involved in Christian radio at the time, right?
Wes: That’s correct.
Bob: Over the years our paths crossed in a number of different settings, and then years later you shifted your focus away from music and started working with authors and speakers, set up the Ambassador Speakers Bureau, and that’s been at the heart of your career for the last 15, 20 years?
Wes: That’s right, ever since ’84 when the shift started taking place. I became concerned about what I saw in the lack of biblical worldview thinking among speakers who were in the general marketplace.
So in 1984, in addition to what we were doing with the music agency, started Ambassador Speakers Bureau, which was the first Christian-oriented speaker’s bureau in the world, specifically to try to do something about that.
Bob: And you have, in that process, been able to get a number of Christian writers and speakers in some very prominent places, representing biblical thinking. Wes and his wife live in Nashville, Tennessee, and how many kids?
Wes: We have two children, a 31-year-old son and a 29-year-old daughter, and two grandbabies.
Bob: So you’ve been empty-nesters for a little while.
Wes: Our daughter went to college in 2000, and all of a sudden it was dead quiet, and we had to –
Dennis: I’ve heard that quiet before, by the way.
Wes: Yes, dead quiet. It has a voice all of its own. We had to start thinking about our life, who we were and what was our purpose for living beyond this together.
Bob: Yes. You’ve written a book called Bond of Brothers, which is about men and friendships. I’m just curious here at the start, when you sat down to write, why this subject?
Wes: Well, the silence that was a part of our life together when the kids left pervaded into some other areas. I had been a part of a group of men that met on my porch that we called an accountability group, and there are many such groups around the country. We had a fallacy in our group, that we could keep each other accountable, and that we could do this while lying to each other.
It doesn’t work really well. I mean, it’s just not a very good idea. And as guys started falling off the porch right and left with all kinds of things, I remember sitting on my porch literally crying and going, “This is what friendship is. This is what accountability is. Where are my friends?” And I said, “If we’re not talking as men about that most important thing together, what else are we not talking about?” And that’s where the book came from.
Dennis: Let’s go back to Bob’s question that he asked at the beginning of the broadcast, just about men being different than women in terms of their friendships. We are really different, aren’t we?
Wes: We’re very different. We’re wired differently. Our first relationship naturally, speaking in the flesh, speaking in the natural world, is to our work. Part of that goes back to the Garden of Eden, when you look at the curse that was pronounced when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.
The curse that came to man was that he would be relegated to the ground from which he came. In this, his most direct relationship is with the ground. So we’re all about work. We’re all about performance. We’re all about rules. That’s one of the reasons that we love what the guys do down at the stadium because we see them achieve and perform and accomplish things.
Women are more relational, and they were taken from our side in the creation story, from our rib, so they immediately have a relational context with a person. We have our first relational context with the dirt.
Dennis: And as a man growing up, a young man, would you say you grasped the importance of male friendships in your life as you were starting out your marriage with Linda, beginning to have children?
Wes: We had friends as couples, but I did not understand the value of friendships with other men. I think it’s incredibly important, and I’ll drop this one into the early part of the conversation, I don’t think it’s possible for a man to be a healthy husband and a healthy father in the way that he was meant to be, unless he has healthy relationships with other men.
Bob: Well, you described having this accountability group, so you were attempting to have healthy relationships with other guys, but you said you were meeting together and lying to each other, and guys were falling off the porch.
Wes: Yes, we were even saying, “Look, let’s ask each other these questions,” – the list of questions – “are you doing this, are you doing that?” “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.” And we were anything but fine.
One guy, who had been the President of a Christian college and had an affair with a student had come back and relocated in our community. We’re friends, and he and his wife had decided that they were going to go through the counseling and the restoration, which they did. They were then asked to come speak at a marriage retreat weekend for some young couples.
It turns out that while they were having that talk and doing that, at the same time period he had started yet another affair. So he was the first one to, what I refer to in the book, is he “fell off the porch.” We brought him back to the group one time. We said, “Look, we beg of you. Please repent; please go back home, and we will get you the kind of help that will help you live with your family, with your wife.”
“We’ll help restore you. But if you go up this driveway this morning and turn left and go down the open road, we will never see you again – not because you wouldn’t be welcome here, but you will feel so uncomfortable. We’re just pleading with you, we’re begging with you, brother, to not do this.”
And he said, “I can’t do it.” He got in his car, got up the road and turned left instead of turning right to go home.
Dennis: Yeah, and as I’m listening to you tell that story, I’m reflecting on three men right now whose lives I’m involved with, and they’re at the bottom of the hill. Haven’t decided whether or not to get in their car and leave and take the left turn and be gone. It’s not always clear how we’re to engage other men.
I want to kind of go all the way back to you as a boy growing up. I just finished a book for men called Stepping Up. It’s a call to men to be courageous and truly step up around the issues they’re facing, and that’s what you’re calling men to do around male friendships.
But you write in your book that your dad had a father who only gave him one affirmation, one compliment.
Wes: One compliment in life. I asked Dad about his father a lot as I was writing the book. His father was a very stern Amish man. My parents on both sides grew up in Amish families, and then they became very conservative Mennonites about the time that I was born, and discovered grace, which was a whole another part of a story to tell later.
My father’s father was very stern, and I asked my dad, I said, “Dad, did you ever hear your father say to you, ‘I love you,’” and he said, “No, I never heard those words.” And I said, “Well, did he love you? How did you know he loved you?” And he said, “I knew my dad loved me.” I said, “How do you know?” “Well, he took care of us and all that,” and he said, “When I turned 21 and was drafted in World War II,” he said, “My father told me that he wished that he could go in my place,” and I knew through that that he really did love me.”
I said, “Well, did he ever compliment you?” He said, “Yes, he did.” I said, “Well, what was the compliment that you remember?” He said, “I stacked the sheaves of wheat on the wagon better than any of my eight brothers,” and he was beaming at 88 years old like a little kid who had just heard the compliment for the first time from his father.
I said to him, “Did he ever compliment you on anything else?” He said, “No, never.” I said, “Dad, what do you think it would have been like if you’d heard your father at least compliment you, say, ten times?” And he had no concept, no context whatsoever for what it would have been like to receive that kind of affirmation from his father.
Bob: So what do you sense that does to a man in terms of how he relates to other men if he grows up with that absence of an affirming relationship with a dad?
Wes: Well, I think what happened in my father’s life is he wound up, because of his personality, having a lot of people who were friends of the family, friends of Mom and Dad together, but no men that would sit on the porch and just talk as guys, and no men that would talk about all the battles that men face individually with lust and with temptation or any of that kind of thing.
I’ll bet Dad never had one private conversation like that with another man. And so what was cut off from him was this idea that you could actually have a relationship with another man, starting, as it should have, with his father. So consequently, a lot of things that he learned he learned in really, really tough ways.
Dennis: And so what about your relationship with your dad? Did you have those conversations with him?
Wes: Not so much. Not until there was an incident in his life when he was just about 72 years old. I was 41 or 42 at the time. Growing up, we were close. I would help him with the milking in the barn, but there was never the conversation that went with it. It was always quiet.
But when he turned in his 70s, we get a call one day from Dad and said, “I need to come to Tennessee and meet with you and Linda, and I need to meet with your brother, Nate, and his wife.” And he said, “By the way, we’re going to all the different states to visit all seven kids, and there’s something I need to talk about.”
We had dinner that night with Mom and Dad and the four of us, and we sat there, and after dinner there’s this incredibly awkward silence. We know it’s time for Dad to talk. He literally, for a couple of minutes sits there in silence, and the first thing that he can get out of his mouth is, “I’ve done something that in the Old Testament they would have stoned me for.”
And he cannot talk anymore. He just cannot say another word. I finally put my hand over on his arm and I said, “Dad, it’s okay. You can talk. I have also done things for which they would have stoned me in the Old Testament. Please tell us.”
And he starts telling this sad and sorrowful story, starting from when he was 16 back on the farm, when there’s a sexual addiction that begins in his life, a stronghold that the enemy starts bringing into his life. It culminates in him hurting someone, and this thing has bubbled to the surface and it’s going to come out, and either he gets to tell the story or somebody else is going to tell the story.
And he said, “Now it’s time for me to speak. It’s time for me to tell the story.” After that happened, we didn’t even know whether we could trust Dad. We had no idea – there was no category for us to put our father into after he told us the story.
A year later he and I are driving around Pennsylvania in his pickup truck, and drove up to a shop, and he turns the motor off. I said, “Dad, can I talk to you for a bit?” He says, “Sure.” I said, “Remember last year when you had the courage to confess your worst sin to the family?” and he just slumped over the steering wheel, just like – it was painful to see it.
I said, “Dad, I have always thought that I needed to hide from you. I could never be honest about my own sin, my own failure. But you had the courage a year ago to come to the family and tell us your sins. Would it be okay if I confessed the sins of my youth to you?”
He looked up, and I started telling him everything I could think of. I said, “Dad, I don’t want to hide anymore.” And we sat in the truck that day and cried like men, and from that day forward we were just as tight as could be and we could talk about anything. But it didn’t start until I was in my 40s.
Dennis: How did that impact your friendships with other men?
Wes: I started realizing through that experience and another experience when I was in my 20s when I came to a place of repentance, that I no longer had to hide my weaknesses from other people. In fact, if I were to tell you my weaknesses, and you’re not a follower of Christ, perhaps that’s the best way for you to actually see that God transforms people and that he changes people’s lives, because he changed my life.
That’s one of the things that so many churches are missing, where we are no longer talking about our weaknesses. We have this idea of a perfect Christianity, and because we don’t have very many leaders that are willing to tell us about how God is transforming them, we have a powerless Christianity.
I learned early on a lot about this wonderful place of freedom that I didn’t have to hide.
Dennis: What I hear you saying in that, that as you engage the soul of another man, being transparent, talking about your own brokenness and how Christ has met you there, there’s tremendous freedom for that other person to reciprocate and to share the grace of God in his life.
Wes: You can actually laugh again as a man. You can actually come to a place where, if you don’t think that you’ve got to fix the guy who’s got the problem, but you can become present with them and bring the presence of Christ into that environment, Jesus is going to be the one who heals and changes.
Jesus isn’t exactly interested in our modern form of Christian behavioral science. He’s really interested in radical heart transformation, and when we get to the point where we no longer have to have all the right answers, we no longer have to fix somebody, but I can just be with you, Bob, or I can be with you, Dennis, and we’re going to let Jesus come into this mix and show us how to live, and let him bring with his presence healing to us, it completely transforms the way you live.
Bob: You know, I want to be liked. I want to be admired, I want to be respected. I mean I think most guys do. I think there’s something in all of us that that’s a part of how we’re wired. If I come clean, that puts all of that at risk. There’s such a threat to saying, “I’m going to tell you the truth,” because you may not like me, admire me or respect me when I’m done.
Wes: Of course, but even our Lord was tempted in all points like as we are,
Wes: -- and the temptations that every man faces are common to all the brothers. Therefore, I’m a big proponent of it’s really time that stop pretending that we don’t know each other. That’s what’s wrong with a lot of what we do. We get men in these groups. We pretend we don’t know each other. There are these incredibly awkward conversations.
Why don’t we just start with the fact that we are these broken-down guys who really need Jesus, and if we don’t need Jesus, I don’t know why we’re in this group in the first place, but I need Jesus.
Dennis: I’m thinking of Bob’s statement, and I’m thinking the reason why most men are caught up in wondering what you’re thinking of me is they don’t consider that relationship safe.
Dennis: They don’t know someone like a Wes Yoder who, hey he’s already said he’s broken. He’s already said he’s broken God’s laws.
Bob: Well, they’ve seen the broken get tossed out, discarded, left along the side of the road.
Dennis: Well the Christian community – I’m sorry, but all of us are really good at being very judgmental. I mean, we’re experts in this. But what you’re calling men to, I believe, is an act of love that we don’t necessarily think of as an act of love.
There’s a passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 16, verse 13 and 14 that says, “Be on the alert,” so it’s a warning about spiritual battle. “Stand firm in the faith,“ – so you’ve got your theology right. “Act like men. Be strong.” And then it says, “Let all that you do be done in love.”
It seems to me that what you’re talking about, Wes, in terms of two men relating to one another in their brokenness and their despair of their selfishness, their sinfulness, their baggage, their thought life, we don’t think about that being covered by another man who says, “You know what? It’s okay. I love you with the love of Christ.” That’s really what you’re talking about here.
Wes: Yes, I’m talking about that. I’m talking, in addition to that, about men coming to the point where they really know that they are loved by the Father. I think the greatest problem with American men who are Christians – they don’t really believe that God loves them because they still see how they mess up.
They still see how they’re tempted, they still see how they lust, they still see all these things about themselves, and they go, “I don’t really believe that God would love me. I believe he would love Dennis and Bob, but not Wes.” I could spend all day convincing you that you are loved by God and not believe it myself. So I think that’s an important thing.
The other thing about the Scripture that you just mentioned is this whole idea that we are to carry one another’s burdens. Now, we need a new way of thinking about that. What it really means is that I am to enter into your sorrow. So when you come to me with a confession, if I am taking the view that, “Oh, I’m so glad that Dennis has finally said – I’m going to check that off the list; he’s going to be fine now.”
If I receive you in that way you’re not going to get healed at all, because you’re going to get healed in community. We get healed at the foot of the cross with other people. So if I’m simply receiving your confession without entering into the sorrow, without understanding why you had this temptation in the first place – How did the Devil begin to rob and kill and destroy your life? – and I can’t weep over your sorrow, you’re not going to get healed. You’re going to say, “Why did I tell that jerk that? I didn’t have to confess it to him to be forgiven by the Father.”
Dennis: And unfortunately there are too many stories of betrayal, like you’re talking about there, which makes men retreat rather than open up their hearts to a few who will express the love of the Father.
For me, I just have to say at this point, there have been two main avenues that I have learned the love of the Father. One from my wife in marital love; the other is from friends who have expressed the love of the Father, still imperfectly. I mean, no way another human being is going to reflect the love of almighty God, but nonetheless, just allow for that moment like you’re talking about to be sorrowful with you in the midst of your failures, but at the same time not reject you.
Wes: Right, to actually receive you as a brother.
Dennis: Yeah, and not go, “You did that?” or “You thought that?” or “You’re that way?” That’s what we’re really calling men to experience.
Bob: It’s not always, I don’t think, rejection and betrayal. It may be that a guy who hears somebody share from the deepest part of him isn’t really sure how to respond, what to say to that, and that’s where I think in the book, Wes, you coach us as men to know what these kinds of authentic friendships can and ought to look like. Not only that, but how these kinds of friendships can be liberating and spiritually invigorating for the men who enter in.
We’ve got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called Bond of Brothers. It’s by Wes Yoder. Again, the title of the book is Bond of Brothers, and you can find it at FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call 800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “Today.” Ask about the book Bond of Brothers when you get in touch with us.
And ask about Dennis’ new book, too, called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. I just had a guy come up to me at church this past weekend, and he said, “I have been reading Dennis’ book. It is really good. In fact,” he said, “I think the guys at our church ought to go through the book.”
Of course, it’s available at our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well. Look online at FamilyLifeToday.com for a copy of Dennis’ new book called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, or give us a call toll-free at 800-FLTODAY, that’s 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Now I want to say a quick word of thanks to those of you who not only listen to FamilyLife Today, but to those of you who help support the ministry. Some of you are Legacy Partners with us; you make a monthly contribution to help keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station, on the internet, and on our network of stations all across the country. We appreciate you.
Some of you make a donation from time to time, as you’re able to do that. We’re very grateful for those of you who do that as well. This month, if you’re able to help with a donation to support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you as a thank you gift a copy of a book by John Yates, called How a Man Prays for His Family.
Along with the book we’re going to send an audio CD that features a conversation we had with John Yates on that subject, and two cards that a husband and wife can each take one, or a man can use both of them in different locations around the house or at the office, cards that help you know how to specifically pray for your children throughout the day.
Again, when you make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, you are welcome to request these resources. Just type the word “pray” into the key code box that you find on the online donation form, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make a donation over the phone and just ask for the book and the CD on prayer, and we’ll send those resources out to you.
Again, thanks for your support of the ministry. We appreciate it, we depend on it, and we are grateful for your financial gifts.
And we want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow. Wes Yoder is going to be here again. We’re going to talk more about men and relationships and friendships. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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