Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When the Honeymoon is Over

As I get farther and farther away from my date of initiation, I'm starting to see the Fraternity differently. I can get a little sad and nostalgic over my past steps in Freemasonry, especially those initial steps. All of us, at some point, get past the Masonic honeymoon.

I think most of you will get where I'm coming from. You start off, not knowing anything about Masonry. The excitement of the Craft is overwhelming. Since, Masonry requires the petitioner to come forward, he is the initial spark. I remember my first step came when I chatted with my grandpa about Masonry. He was never a garrulous man so, for me to learn this fact was eye-opening. (there are still things I'm learning about him.)

Then the whirlwind romance with Masonry began. I got my petition and started the process. I visited the lodge my grandpa's friend recommended. I loved it. The early 20th c. layout of the building was incredible. Then I visited a number of the brothers and found a home. I fit right in. The degree work started and I was totally impressed.

I met my mentor, Don, and found someone I could respect as well as learn from. I kicked butt in my memory work and discovered that I was a ritualist. Masonry was this thing that filled a gap in my mind and heart that I never knew existed. I was in heaven. I'd learn another piece of ritual and get super excited. This would lead me to read books, a little Pike, a little Mackey, a lot of Pound. My wife can attest to my library growing to several volumes of Masonic material. I just couldn't stop.

I went through the chairs. I bounced up chairs, learning and loving every minute. Even my time as Master was fun. Then I entered the downward phase from the high as Master. My lodge has the bylaws set to have the outgoing Master serve as the Lodge Education Officer and the outgoing Lodge Education Officer serve as Marshal to ensure some level of continuity in the line.

And then, my year as Marshal was done. My career in my lodge was now Past Master. That was it. Cue whatever the opposite of swelling music is. I sat in my chair at home and thought about everything that had happened in my near decade in Masonry. The honeymoon was over.

Although I was active in Chapter at that time, it still felt like the air had left the balloon. I felt like a left-handed monkey wrench. Was I even necessary to my lodge? I know that's a little self-serving but I do think like that sometimes.

I think we all get wrapped up in these things that affect our identity and take a lot of our time. I couldn't stop thinking about Masonry, even keeping me up at night. I spent hours in my car learning ritual. But, sometimes, I will sit back and think, "were those hours wasted? Did I really spend my time well?" I think those questions are important to ask, especially to keep your sanity.

Once you get past that honeymoon phase, you have to focus on maintaining the relationship, similar to a long time friendship or a marriage. Not everything is love and affirmation. Sometimes it's work, sometimes there's stress. Sometimes you get excited again for something you're doing together. But a lot of it is maintenance.

That's why I think we see a lot of guys fade out in five to ten years. It's not just that we need mentoring; it's not just focusing down at the newish Mason past his honeymoon with the Craft from the organization, it's also counseling the newish Mason that his attraction to the Craft will wax and wane. Sometimes Masonry is just going through the motions. Sometimes it's as exciting as hell as you discover something new. But it's not a climb up, it's just a rolling wave through your life. And that's actually Masonry's greatest power.

We can walk away from it for a time. We can put it on hold. We can come back to it. We can keep it on a low boil. But no matter what, Masonry's always there.

So, my advice as a guy who has passed that honeymoon phase. Just roll with it. If you need to take a breather, take a breather. If you want to chat with your brothers, go ahead and find out what they do to just keep going. Masonry is like a friendship or a marriage, you have to work at it to keep it strong and healthy.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


Lweinc said...

Brother Johnson,

I feel for you and others because you are right in the "honeymoon being over" after a while. I am surprised that as a "Millennial Freemason", you actually completed 10 years, as most do not make it past 3-years.

The work or journey in masonry is one of peaks, drop-offs, valleys, curves, and 90* corners. There are even a few stop signs along the way. It is not a matter of trying to applying a certain principle (spark) back into the travels, but more of the "subduing the passions and improving oneself in masonry".

The Craft needs you as much as you need it, by participating in development of new and exciting methods to keep brothers interested and moving forward. You are needed as a working member of your foundation helping brother fulfilling their obligations as taken in the 2nd degree.

Your journey has just shifted to becoming a "Leader" in the Millennial class of Freemasons. Your journey has just begun, what you have gone through was simply a guided road-map that has been laid out for all Masons to give them some directions. Welcome to your "map", one that will help others have a better sense of direction, hope, and yes challenge.

I wish you safe travels and I hope the steepest uphill climb that you encounter is the one that caused you to share your article.

Fraternally and Sincerely,

R. W. Lincoln Wilson, PM Goodland 321
M:.W:. Grand Lodge of AF&AM of Kansas

Sank said...

You have eloquently stated what I've been feeling for a while now. if I weren't teh secretary of my lodge I think i'd be pretty scarce around the building. It went from new and exciting to "work". Work to stay active, work to keep relevant. Work to find something new.

Lweinc said...

My Brother,

You are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. I just finished a year term with the Grand Lodge of Kansas as a Grand Lodge Officer, I traveled around KS, CO, NE, UT, NM, and WY, the same concerns in personal feelings shared everywhere.

Your simply putting yourself out there with the question or observation is helpful to others because they begin to understand they too are not alone. I am a member of LinkedIn.com which you maybe as well. It offers a group discussion or forum for mason to also put forth that place to ask and seek information, I invite you to take a look and join.

There are several "Masonic Groups", it to is a journey seeking which one to join. I belong to several but only really contribute to 1 or 2. Ancient Free & Accepted Masons (favorite), Freemason Professionals, Masonic Network, Masonic Brotherhood, future of Freemasonry, World of Freemasonry. Take a look.

Thank you Brother for sharing your information, it is helpful.

Bull Garlington said...

Never happened to me. Masonry offers lifelong learning and fellowship. I don't see how that can ever get old.

There is always ritual to learn, always floor work to perfect. There is always a challenge.

In our second degree, we are implored to become ceaseless autodidacts: to learn music, grammar, logic, and geometry. Each of these disciplines offers a lifetime of study and a broad and complex declination of narrower and narrower focus. I believe our second degree is trying to show us there is an endless and infinite world of knowledge—of light.

Masonry is also very clear on this point: it isn't about the honeymoon. It's about the work.

So . . . get to work.

WBRO Bull Garlington

Kosta Hatzis said...

Thank you for sharing...I am on the journey thru the chairs and you had my interest. I will pass this around as I am sure it resonates with other brethren too.

Again, thank you.

Lweinc said...

Brother Johnson,

The work, the trip, the questions, and the insights, all lead toward the enjoyment of masonry.


Warren Bell said...

Brother Nick,

I think it's a bout path, I've seen so many great members get burned out by the pressure of blue lodge and to be an officer. if you wish to be an officer by all means dedicate yourself to blue lodge ritual and make a run for the chair. Myself I joined to learn the secrets so I chose to move as high as I could till I reached a point of satisfaction where now if I want to progress I must prove myself a master of ritual. But masonic burn out is a real danger of why we can not retain members. In today's age every new member is different and has different desires and needs.

Ronald S. Robinson said...

Brother Nick,

I have completed 20 years in Masonry and have loved every bit of it. For me, I was able to keep my interest up by joining other houses, notably, the Holy Royal Arch. i found it another source of information to augment what I learned in the Blue House. I continued on the Royal & Select Masters and completed the journey started in my Initiation. I am a Past Grand High Priest and enjoyed the journey from M1V all the way up. I am a Past Grand Lodge Trustee and a DDGM (Emeritus). I am a Past Commander-in Chief of the local Consistory and now a 33° Mason. There is much to do in the instructing, advising and being there for newer Brothers. As the saying goes, you get out of it what you put into it. Find what works for you and your journey will continue. RW Ronald S. Robinson, PHGLoNY

toppercat said...

I can totally see where one gets... What's the word..... Bored with freemasonry but you have to realize you get out of it what you put in. Every single thing you do is a brick in a wall that represents the good in society. Some of these bricks are small some are quite large. But the wall is massive and keeps on building because of what we do. I was lucky. They stuck me in a chair. I got my proficiency certificate. (Illinois) I worked my way through the chairs and was master twice. I am currently a district deputy. The constant work staves off the boredom and I always find things interesting. I'm constantly learning. I always said when I'm done with my work in Blue Lodge i'll go into an appendant body. But that's my personal descision. I know others who join everything and are constantly busy. That's the key. Keep doing things. If you are a past master and you find yourself in a run, take on a charity as a committee chair. I have been a master Mason for abt 12 years. I don't know everything and no one does. But it's the act of learning which makes us who we are. Keep going and don't give up. And remember... Even a small brick in the wall is still a brick and adds to it. Good luck in your masonic career.