David Kaplan sits in a room full of men. The mood is somber, yet welcoming. Heavy, yet free of judgement and shame.
He fidgets slightly in his chair as another man shares why he showed up tonight: the struggles he can’t beat on his own, the sins he’s been fighting for ages, and his desire to be known and loved despite how messed up he is; how messed up he feels. David is amazed at the vulnerability happening before him. And for the first time, he talks about his own struggles without a reaction of disapproval, disappointment, or judgement. For the first time, his struggles are met with no strings attached: there’s love and there’s acceptance. And, for David, it’s life changing.
“One thing about reGROUP is that when you go in, there’s a sort of acceptance from everyone there just for being there, just by showing up,” David says of Summit’s recovery ministry, which he completed a few months ago. “It is very welcoming.”
For David, the reason for going to reGROUP began because he wanted to figure out how to work through some of the sins and struggles he’d been dealing with most of his life. But he never imagined that he’d walk away with an entirely new understanding of who God is and how God’s love works—even after being raised in a Christian home and feeling like he knew all the right answers. “I considered myself a professional Christian,” David says, only half kidding, as he explains how he grew up thinking that he’d just earn God’s love with his performance and achievements at being…well…good. “It’s kind of like a badge, a title. It’s just the way I thought…subconsciously attempting to earn grace and love from God and others.”
So when David reached a point with a particular struggle where he couldn’t actually conquer it on his own, he wasn’t sure what to do, where to go. And that’s what led him to reGROUP. “I got to the point where I was literally powerless against the things that I was struggling with,” David says. “I can’t fix this. I don’t know how to fix this. I literally can’t achieve my way out of this. I tried every possible way.”
As David took the courageous step of joining that room of men week after week, a trusting community began to form. And as he listened to the vulnerability shared and the acceptance given, he realized one of the things he was missing in his relationship with God: humility. “When you’re sitting in a room with a bunch of people and everyone is sharing, it’s hard to be prideful,” David says. “You realize that, ‘Man, I’m pretty messed up. But so is everyone else.’ It’s almost more normal to be messed up than it is to be on the right track. And it’s okay.” David references his favorite book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, saying “It’s for people like me who have tried and worked so hard to make sure that we’re in good standing with God when, really, I couldn’t get it by effort.”
And, with that new realization, David began to forgive himself for the sins he’d struggled with and couldn’t defeat on his own. His new reGROUP community—the men who were walking alongside him and holding one another up—they were part of this process, too. “I think the accountability that came from these guys, the encouragement, the camaraderie, and having people say ‘Hey, it’s okay I’m there with you, I get it.’ It really helped me forgive myself and realize that God is not on my case. That’s a big part of reGROUP, they are accepting because they are mimicking Jesus,” David says. “I was just constantly reminded that Jesus died for this sin…and that it’s okay that I have issues that I can’t fix by my own abilities.”
Grace is what David found at reGROUP. And it changed everything. “I realized that now I can look at God for how he truly is. He saved me! It is miraculous that he did this and is still doing it! Before, I would agree that it’s great to go to God and ask him for things and pray, but in my heart I was still the guy that was going to come through on my own,” David says. “I feel like what reGROUP has helped me do is focus less on me—trying to fix sin and trying to fix the fact that I couldn’t fix that sin on my own. I just feel so much closer with who Jesus is as a Savior, and specifically, a Savior to me.”
David has finished his ‘official’ time in reGROUP. He says, it’s not like specific temptations are suddenly gone. But now he knows he doesn’t have to conquer anything by his own power or determination. And his newfound understanding of God’s grace has even changed how he interacts with others. “When there’s not shame about being a sinner and being messed up, it really helps you get to know people really quickly…it’s just walls being torn down when you share your struggles,” David says. “It’s been really cool to see the conversations over the past few years. My friendships are deeper because they really see me and I really see them.”
If you have ever felt like there is something standing between you and the person God has called you to be, or if you feel like life just isn’t working, reGROUP is an opportunity to walk toward healing and recovery through a safe, small group community. Join us on Monday nights at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Campus.
Laura Cook is one of our most longstanding volunteer writers. She has written for just about every Summit Magazine ever. Laura has attended Summit for 11 years, and has two joyful (see also: rambunctious) children with her husband, Scott.