I lie awake in bed from a long night’s sleep. I’m tired and weary from the stresses and longings of my everyday life. I don’t feel like getting up, but I groan, lean over and pick up my phone.

I have a new text! It’s from one of my brothers:

Hey Eugene! I love you.

Wow, so simple with only five words. But a world of difference it makes in my day. I rise up and I’m ready to take on the world. But not before sending a message back:

Hey brother! I love you too. You mean a lot to me.

The slog of waking up to my drab mundane life takes a sharp turn for the better, and I am suddenly filled with hope and optimism. The world is not so scary anymore.

How on earth did I live without this hope before?

I attended this year’s YOBBERS retreat, and my mind is spinning over what I just saw and experienced there.

47 men all under one roof: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, White, Black, Latino, American, and international. All followers of Jesus, all attracted to the same sex, all uniting under a “Side B” traditional sexual ethic, all united as brothers.

Strangely, I don’t think my favorite part of the YOBBERS retreat was my own interactions with these men (though a lot of that was fantastic, too). I actually enjoyed seeing these other men interact with one another, most of whom meeting for the first time.

Just watching these men laugh, play games, joke around, sing, pray, and cry together truly lifted my soul. I’d never seen anything like it.

All my life, I’ve lived in dread and fear about my future, envisioning a bleak future in which I become that creepy old man who lives alone down the street. The one of whom the neighbors gossip and the mothers warn their kids.

My parents would be long dead by this point, leaving me alone in this world as an only child with no surviving family.

My straight friend would be married with a perfect family of his own and no time for me.

No one else would be there for me, or guide me, or love me. I’d be alone in my dark house full of hoarded furniture and junk with porn as my only consolation.

I know many of you readers have similar fears about what awaits you on the horizon. But I say this to you: this need not be your future. Being straight or going “Side A” with your beliefs is not your only option.

Now that I’ve found my brothers, I see a future full of abundant love, intimacy, and family beyond what I could have ever comprehended.

God has come through on his promises, even if it was something I never expected. God has been so good to me, even if I don’t deserve any of it.

I look back at this life-changing year-and-a-half of discovering brotherhood, and a sea of memories wash upon me:

A brother tells me he loves me for the first time on Skype.

I see a brother for the first time at the airport, and he embraces me.

I sit with a group of brothers, and we all hold hands as we watch a play.

I show several brothers around my town and introduce them to my parents.

I sit on the couch with another brother as we watch a movie. He unexpectedly rests his head on my shoulder.

I hold hands with my brother on the Haunted Mansion at Disney World.

Believe it or not, those aren’t even half the best things I’ve experienced. There are so many other stories, and I anticipate more to come.

None of these relationships is perfect, however. They’ve come with a fair share of pain.

But honestly, I would much rather live a life of brotherhood and love and some dosages of pain rather than in a horrible, friendless wasteland.

I’m never going back to that place again. Never.

With my brothers, at long last, I feel alive. I feel alive.

After all I’ve been through, I could easily choose to resent God for seemingly letting me be doomed to a life of loneliness and perpetual difference from everyone else.

But no.

Instead, I see a light of hope shining.
I hear my brothers sing.
I feel love in me roaring.
A wondrous, beautiful feeling.

Do you have hope and optimism for a full life of brotherhood, or is this a concept with which you often struggle? Did you attend this year’s YOBBERS retreat, or do you have any questions about our first-ever weekend together?

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