A while back, I set off for a weekend away from work, away from the city and technology. I was going with many other brothers on a much needed retreat.
Honestly, as much as I needed the retreat, I was also nervous. I had barely, or never, talked to most of the men going. What would happen if I found any of them attractive? Could I deal with that guilt weighing on me all weekend?
Plus, my spiritual life was a wreck. Not the healthiest way to go into a Christian retreat.
For parts of the weekend, we split into smaller groups — tribes — based on our five YOB values. By chance (providence?), I was placed on the Courage tribe. Courage — an unlikely descriptor for me considering my proclivity to worry and avoidance of leadership.
I could say much about the retreat, but the men of the Courage tribe spoke the most into my life.
During our first tribal meeting, we did some ice-breaker questions to actually get to know each other. Were there some awkward silences? Probably. But that’s what happens, at least for me, when I keep some of my guards up, meeting new people.
The second evening, however, after having spent some time together, we dug into what courage means, how we have seen courage in our lives, how we have failed to be courageous, and how we can walk more in courage.
Courage (n): the ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief.
Given this definition, our group started off saying that we have all chosen a path of courage as we walk this gray area of life, faith, and culture.
After some light talk and spaces of quiet, something amazing and beautiful happened.
One by one, these men started sharing parts of their story. Men trusting the rest of us with stories about facing rejection by friends or family as they opened up about their struggles. Men sharing about the weight they carry in not being able to be fully present. Men feeling like their life is too polarizing for their family.
All this divulged among men who had first met less than a day ago.
One guy then reminded us of the importance to hear truth as we continue to walk in courage. Knowing the Truth about who God says we are will help us be courageous.
These men, their stories showed me the courage to love. The courage to love family and friends, whether they understand, accept us, or not. The courage to love and trust God even in the midst of confusion and lies.
The courage to love myself.
As we wrapped up our evening in prayer and song, the image of men sharing stories, song, and prayers as we cried and held each other — that image imprinted itself on my heart and mind.
This — this is courage.
To those brothers, thank you for showing me the courage to love. Your stories continue to impact me.
That next morning, as I thought over the evening, I landed in the Psalms — and read about the courage to trust God. Psalm 25:4-5 reads:
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”
In the spaces where I needed to know my messy life wasn’t too much, God shows up. If only I have the courage to wait on Him.
The retreat ended, and I watched our small group of nine and the larger group of nearly fifty say good-bye. These brothers who laughed, cried, worshiped, and lived courageously together. And I was (and am) happy because I know the story continues for each of us.
How can we show courage today? For God, for ourselves, and for those around us? Tell us about a time you stepped out in courage with your story.
Man, such as amazing post, such an amazing experience, and such amazing courage. It is really something to have 9 men open up about the most painful part of their lives, and then be loved in return.
I’m happy this impacted so profoundly. It helps hold on to hope.
Daniel – So glad that I got to meet you that weekend!
And I think it took a while for me to realize just how impactful the weekend and the group of men there were to me.
Daniel, it was great to meet you at the retreat. I love the intensity of your pursuit of God!
Our struggles are painfully difficult at times but when we love and trust each other, the hope that results makes such an enormous difference!
Sounds like the retreat had a very positive impact, Kevin. I hope you are able to move forward and that you can get your spiritual life back on track.
One of your fears was going into the weekend and finding others attractive. Then you asked yourself if you could deal with the guilt all weekend. Did you mean you feel guilt when you recognize that someone is attractive?
Spiritual life is on a slow upward track – it’s tough when I end up working most Sunday mornings.
And I’m not sure. It’s not immediate guilt. But I know that I am prone to fantasizing. And I know that I care deeply for people even without knowing them for long. When those meet up, I feel guilt for not being able to care for somebody in a healthy way… or for having the thought of something more than what would be healthy for either of us. It is still difficult for me to notice an attractive man and move on. A growing point for sure.
That’s so fantastic Kevin! The small groups were definitely a favorite part of the retreat for me, and my Hope group went pretty similar to yours. The beginning had the awkward introductions and silences. But after a while we started to become more vulnerable and share each other’s stories and it became something very moving and special. So glad you were there to experience it.
I am so happy that you got to go! I almost feel like I have gone myself reading the stories! One of the things I dreaded in life was getting up in public and speaking. And yet…the opportunities would present themselves and I began to grow in this way. Recently, I have had the opportunity to tell some of my story in groups…and it has been a blessing. Courage for sure…and God’s help in calming my shaking legs!
Bless you brother for all you do!
The power of words is amazing, isn’t it? Glad that you are able to glean from the stories – and hopefully some conversations as well!
I’m not sure if many people enjoy public speaking to begin with. It’s funny how those opportunities present themselves in our lives. Chances to grow and be more of who we were meant to be.
Glad to have you here journeying with us!
Thank you so much Kevin…your kind words meant a lot to me!
You ask about how we can demonstrate courage these days. Well, based on personal events, I think I showed courage by being vulnerable. I’m not the most courageous person as I’ve let fear factor in on my personal decision making. How I define courage is acting towards a good and noble purpose despite whatever negative consequences might befall us personally. The times I can recall being vulnerable or courageous (however one might interpret it) is when I came out to my parents or when I confessed to one or many about my sexual proclivity with masturbation. I felt so exposed when I did, but there was a feeling of relief in my confessions. In all cases, I wasn’t judged or shamed for my iniquities. We find courage to love when we realize no one is perfect and we all are in this journey of life together.
Thanks for writing this, Kevin! Showing up with your whole self, like the men in your group did, not holding anything back, takes so much courage. Biting the bullet can be really hard, but it pays off!
[…] woods, the question wandered in my mind. I came to the YOBBERS retreat this year because … it was good last year. And, really, because I needed a break — a break from work and from stress back […]