The Men Next to You

By Shaun Robinson
In eLetter
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One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is at the end of Ridley Scott’s 2001 epic “Black Hawk Down.” Eric Bana, the Australian actor who donned an American southern accent to play a Delta Force operator named Hoot, answers Josh Hartnett’s character when he asks why he’s going back into the fray after 36 hours of hell:

When I go home people'll ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I'll say? I won't say a [expletive] word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand that it's about the men next to you, and that's it. That's all it is.”

A man willing to lay down his life for the men around him. Jesus did it for all of us because of his divine love. But what would inspire a non-divine man to do this? It’s the deep bonds and relationships that he develops with his fellow soldiers as they go through the trials and tribulations of training, military life, and in some cases, battle.

Doing life is a team sport

Although many of us are not called into military service, we all do life. And doing life in today’s highly uncertain world is no cakewalk. With pandemics, extreme weather events, stock market crashes, job losses, terrorist attacks, and deep cultural and political divides, this world is not conducive to living a life full of inner peace.

As men, we are often programmed to believe it’s all on us to lead our families, businesses, and teams through this volatile world successfully. Intestinal fortitude, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, grinding it out—whatever you call it, it stems from our deep-down belief that we’re in control. It might work for a while and lead to some success, but the world around us changes so rapidly that something eventually comes along and knocks us off our feet.

For me, that happened in December of 2018. I’m one of those crazy type A, Enneagram 3s, and my need for achievement served me well through 23 years of my career. I loved what I did, worked extremely hard, and was constantly getting rewarded on my way up to becoming an executive. Acquisitions, restructurings, and an increasingly toxic work environment eventually led to one of the worst things that can happen to an over-achiever: failure. Because I had made work the center of my life instead of God, intense anxiety set in and the downward spiral began until my number came up. For the first time in my career after nothing but success, I was laid off. I had no idea what to do next.

Band of Brothers

A few weeks later, after being an IBC member for 20 years, I attended First Watch for the first time. If you’re not familiar with First Watch, it’s a group of about 80 men who gather on Friday mornings at IBC to grow in relationship with God and each other. It starts early, but there’s always hot coffee and donuts ready. There’s a short message from a great speaker, and the rest of the time is spent discussing, praying, and connecting with the other men at your table. On this particular morning, I sat down at the designated New Guy Table as a man who felt he no longer had an identity, as I had falsely wrapped my identity up in my work.

For a year, the men at that table supported me, coached me, and prayed for me through my transition. They walked beside me through the ups and the downs and shared their own challenges. It didn’t take me long to realize I had a group of men who were invested in my life and committed to helping me grow in my relationship with God. I was so blessed to be welcomed and supported over that year, that when most of the men “graduated” to their own table, I decided to stay behind to welcome and lead other new brothers as they joined. I’ve been doing it ever since.

If you haven’t tried First Watch, come out and kick the tires. We always have room for you at the New Guy Table, and I promise you’ll walk out knowing you’ve got a band of brothers that have your six.

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