Preston’s 21st birthday was approaching when we set off for Christ in the Smokies last year. It was perfect timing for us to attend—preparing him for the responsibilities that accompany the significant age of 21.
Not knowing what to expect, we encountered a little anxiety, along with nervous excitement, as we prepared for our week together at CITS. The feedback I had heard from others who attended the camp with their son made it sound like the perfect opportunity for Preston and me at the current stage of our father/son relationship, but this was going to be unchartered territory for us. Most of the one-on-one time we had experienced prior to our trip was limited to several Georgia football games in Athens, and breaking away during family trips to talk sports over fast food. With three siblings for Preston, and me traveling constantly with my job, Preston and I did not experience much “quantity of time,” but the time we did experience was special. Though we have always been extremely close—and of my four kids, he and I are most alike—it was time for me to share with him the wisdom and vulnerabilities, and the good decisions and regrets, I had experienced as I moved into manhood.
Before we left, I envisioned CITS as providing an atmosphere of learning what it means to be a “Man of Christ”—putting the childish ways in the past and accepting the role of a “leader worth following.” And sure enough, Preston and I now see each other far beyond the father/son relationship. We drove away from camp seeing each other as men with a common purpose to lead as Jesus intended.
Preston and I know each other’s strengths and weaknesses as a result of the meaningful conversations we had at CITS. We now support and pray for each other as we address our flaws while encouraging and holding each other accountable to the purposes God has for our lives as men in this crazy world.
I am amazed at the willingness of dads and sons to share in a “safe place” environment. Preston and I are both known to be hesitant in sharing our feelings, our regrets, etc. Once we opened up to ourselves and the others attending, it created liberation neither of us will ever forget. It’s hard to explain the amazing trust, love, and “oneness” you feel at camp until you experience it for yourself.
I want encourage other fathers and sons who have considered CITS (no matter what stage of life), to sign up. I understand the hesitancy and excuses men can come up with, but I can genuinely say my father/son relationship with Preston will never be the same after attending CITS. God’s hand is on this camp!