An Admiral Surrendered in Utopia

An Admiral showed up several years ago at one of our men’s retreats in Utopia. As he began to share his story during the introductions, he said that he wasn’t a churchgoer and really didn’t know why he was there. He told us that a couple weeks before the retreat a family member in another state was struggling with substance abuse and so he jumped on a Southwest flight in the northeast and flew to the treatment center in the west. Somewhere along the way he reached into the seat back pocket for a magazine to read. Instead his hands felt a book. He pulled it out and discovered a golf novel strategically left there by a previous passenger. Inside the cover was a hand written message that simply said,  “This is for you, enjoy.” The attendants had missed it during clean up on the previous flight.

Being an avid golfer the Admiral began to read. Unable to finish it on the flight he took it with him. After one of the sessions at the treatment center that he was allowed to attend, he and his family member, whom he was helping through the “12 step program,” were informed that the next day’s topic would be about surrendering. It took him back. As he said in his own words, “I was trained not to surrender, surrender wasn’t in my language, and the last thing I was going to do was surrender to anything.”

Later that night he picked up the book to finish it and learned from Johnny what it meant to surrender to God.  He said at that moment for the first time he had a category for surrender and was prepared to help his family member step across that line the next morning.

When he returned home from the trip he went on our web site. He discovered that there was a retreat in Utopia the following weekend that was built around the book. He signed up and flew half way across the country to spend time with a bunch of guys he didn’t know, play golf at a goat ranch, and talk about a God he was unfamiliar with. He concluded his introduction by conveying that he himself wasn’t ready to surrender.

On day three we headed to our ranch. As I finished speaking about unplanted dream seed, I was about to give the men a chance to sit under an oak tree and listen, look, and breath in life. Our ranch being miles from anywhere, gave them an opportunity to go off the grid for a couple hours and to engage with God. They were encouraged to spread out so as not to interrupt another during this sacred time and to journal about their encounter. Experience had proven that this would give the Holy Spirit a chance to speak.

As we were about to spread out for our time with God, the Admiral blurted out, “It’s time.” At that he walked up in front of the group and knelt, held his hands towards heaven and said, “I am ready to surrender my life to Jesus.” The men in stunned disbelief came around him. We all reached out and put a hand on his broad shoulders and began praying over him in unison. It was a beautiful chorus of awe that reached to the heights of heaven. We witnessed this decorated Admiral’s greatest victory… the victory of surrender…

When he was done, this big imposing man stood with a grin on his face and said, “This is a good day.”

I am still in awe…



Photo by Marion Doss