The Ambivalence of Brotherhood

brotherhood pain restoration

Last week, I read in the Brotherhood Primer, “Men have such ambivalence toward letting others know the landscape of their souls.  We want it, and we are so deeply terrified of it.”  

Get out of my head Chris Bruno.

Back in July of 2019 I learned that I had been sexually abused as a child.  The person who did the abusing would later become a spiritual leader, ministry trainer, mentor, friend…he would become a brother.  All the while, he never acknowledged the abuse that had taken place or his continued preying on young men during my college years and after.  My story involves longing for brotherhood but finding it to be dangerous and violating. 

In late 2020, following God’s invitation, I chose to leave pastoral ministry, a calling that I had first been envisioned for by this abuser.  In early 2021, I chose to work for Restoration Project.  I couldn’t have been happier when my official start date came in February.  And yet, during my first in person staff meeting, I found myself crying.  A couple of months later, I was so excited to start my first Brotherhood Group with men in Detroit.  Then, 5 minutes before I was supposed to leave for our second gathering, I sat on the couch and wept.

I long for the company of men and the company of men brings me to terrified tears. 

I have asked myself many times, “Why have I chosen to work with a men’s ministry?!?”  Yet, I shouldn’t be surprised that this is where I have so clearly felt God pulling me.  This is what Jesus does: he offers to go with us into the places of our deepest trauma and to buy back what Evil pillaged.  From the birth of Jesus, when wise men from the line of the Persian and Babylonian pillagers came to offer the King of Israel gifts to the resurrected Jesus that still had holes in his hands and a gash in his side, Jesus doesn’t “move on” from trauma.  He moves into trauma and redeems all that Evil came to steal, kill, and destroy.

I know that I will continue to feel this ambivalence towards Brotherhood for some time, but I am already experiencing Jesus redeeming that space for me.  At the end of my first Brotherhood Group, I sat around a fire with a cigar in my hand, looking at the firelight reflecting off the eyes of three other men.  They looked intently at me as I shared about sending a letter to the person who abused me, confronting him with the truth about his actions and explaining the impact they’ve had on my life.  One of them asked if they could pray for me.  I said yes.  Another asked if they could place their hands one me.  I paused and then, somewhat surprisingly, said yes again. 

As these friends-becoming-brothers prayed for my healing, for truth, for justice, even for his healing, I stared into the fire and was stunned that I was there.  Jesus is buying back what was stolen in brotherhood through brotherhood, not by moving past the trauma but by moving into it.  All that remains for me is to accept my ambivalence towards letting other men know the landscape of my soul.

Do you sense Jesus offering to go with you into the trauma within your story?

Kevin Armstrong 
Restoration Project Chief of Legacy Partner Development