For Executive Director Stuart Ray, the importance of faith at Guiding Light is hard to explain.
“It’s embedded in our culture,” he says. “None of us are putting our Christian clothes on when we come in every morning. We wear those clothes all day long.”
And Stuart is right: of Guiding Light’s seven core values, “Christ-centered” and “Prayer” serve as book-ending bedrocks. These principles influence everything the organization does, from finding self-compassion in Recovery to developing mindful routines for getting back to work.
Stuart and Guiding Light’s motivation for helping struggling men is easier to define: this is a life or death business. “We cannot do the hard work for these men, but we can provide strategy and leadership.
“There are generally three paths theses guys take. There’s incarceration, death, or you go through a recovery program,: Stuart explains. “Those first two options aren’t acceptable to me. I would see that as a great waste of human potential.”
“I tend to believe that God gives us all special gifts and talents. The fact that these men are still with us means there’s still a bigger plan for them in this world.” Stuart adds that Guiding Light’s non-profit status reflects the power of its faith – and its commitment – saying, “There is no dollar sign attached to these guys…this is really a belief system, that starts with the board, and this is the right thing to do and this is consistent with our Christian faith.”
“I do believe God has entrusted us. I have no intention of failing.”
But Stuart also recognizes the challenge facing spiritual recovery, like getting men with wildly different religious histories on the same page. From those who haven’t been to church in decades, to those who were ostracized by a church or grew used to other doctrines. Stuart and the staff find it more effective to lead men by example than by force.
“It’s not our job to challenge existing family values,” Stuart says. “It’s a commitment upon the staff to walk a Christian, New Testament walk and hope what [clients] witness sparks an interest or curiosity in relations to their religious, faith journey.”
This curious exploration takes many forms at Guiding Light. Between regular devotionals, ample reading material, and scheduled retreats, Guiding Light provides resources that encourage both communal and introspective spiritual recovery.
Of particular note is the time Guiding Light men spend with their spiritual directors. Specially trained to both promote self-examination and withhold judgement, these directors spend one-on-one time talking with men, helping them work towards more specific or tangible goals when reading, praying or simply living.
Willingness to listen, rather than tell, plays into Guiding Light;s inclusive approach to faith exploration.
“We do not hold judgement. We give unconditional love as a pillar of our Christian belief. We will treat you the same way we believe Christ would have treated anyone else,” Stuart says. adding that, thanks to inclusivity, “I think our lives are more full at the end of the day.” As a proponent of unconditional love, Stuart is quick to give a hug or word of genuine reassurance.
“It took me a year to figure it out. The minute I went to ‘I love you’, things changed. The minute I went to hugging, things changed. I think just a simple hand on a shoulder is a huge deal.”
THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST HAS BECOME A NEW PERSON. THE OLD LIFE IS GONE; A NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN!
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17