After going to last year’s inaugural YOBBERS retreat, I never found resolution in wrestling with an uncertain feeling. I’m not sure I was even able to articulate it until I felt it again at this year’s retreat.

I didn’t expect to forge any new relationships that I’d have the bandwidth to maintain from back home; given that, I wondered what I was doing there. It would be a fun weekend, a relieving retreat from the world, but I had a hard time envisioning how my life would be different afterward.

The first night of this year’s YOBBERS retreat, I stood in the corner of the large common room and looked at all the other guys. Some laughing and draping their arms across each other’s shoulders; some sitting in thoughtful, concerned discussion; some, like me, aloof and uncommitted.

What am I doing here? I wondered. What should I be doing?

I felt torn, like I did at the first YOBBERS retreat, hovering at the edge of eight different conversation circles, wondering what to do with myself.

Could I get away with inviting myself into one of the circles with the men I felt most drawn to? Or maybe I should go strike up a conversation with someone new, or someone for whom I felt otherwise called to show care?

Honestly, that torn state is how I spent most of the last retreat; however, something new began to happen this time around.

I’m not sure if it was seeing so many familiar faces, or if I was just in a different place spiritually this year. But I found myself overcome with a sudden and surprising wonder and delight at the scene playing out before me.

I felt filled with a warm affection for all the men I saw, even the ones I had only just met. I was proud of them. I rejoiced to see them gathered together. I marveled at the diversity I saw, especially in terms of age. I delighted in watching them interact, verbally and physically.

It led me to worship, in a way. I praised God for it all, knowing that this gathering was the work of his hands.

Peace came over me, and I wasn’t torn anymore. I didn’t need to participate — not right then, or ever, necessarily. Resting in that worshipful state was enough for me.

Even if I took nothing else home from the weekend, seeing that beauty was worth it. And it relieved me to realize that the beauty unfolding before me didn’t need me.

It has always bewildered me the way people say they are “humbled” when they receive some award or honor. Personally, I’ve been more humbled by all times I put in a lot of time and energy and didn’t win the award.

I think humility is seeing yourself rightly in the context of a wide, wide world and an infinite, eternal God. We’ve probably all heard the saying that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but rather thinking of yourself less.

Humility is not about being hard on yourself; it’s about fighting the urge to stand at the center of it all.

So know that when I say I was humbled, I’m not tossing around a cliché. As I stood there at this year’s YOBBERS retreat, an observer rather than a participant, God reminded me I wasn’t there to get as much as I could get, or even give as much as I could give.

The YOBBERS retreat was bigger than me. I didn’t need to stand in the center of anything.

I could simply be moved to worship and it was mission accomplished.

I’m thankful for these moments that gently remind me how big and not-about-me the universe is. So many of my pastors and teachers have presented this process of growing in humility as an excruciating process.

“The most dangerous prayer is to ask God for humility,” they’ve often warned.

I guess being broken of pride does hurt more often than not. But maybe sometimes it’s as easy as perceiving beauty, as relieving as taking a deep breath and resting your conflicted heart.

Maybe sometimes it’s what we’ve been looking for all along.

When have you experienced humility over your place in the universe, your place in the Church? When have you struggled to find humility within some function of the Church?

  • I love that idea of perceiving beauty as part of humility. If it is indeed a virtue, then there is beauty in it. How often we ignore that. Thank you for sharing your story of this, Ryan. Was awesome to be able to spend time with you at the retreat and see you lead us as brothers.

    • Thanks Dean! Yeah I feel like the perception of beauty can take us in a number of different directions. We can try to step into it or claim it as our own in some way, or we can let it lead us into worship.

  • Your posts always come with a lot of thought and wisdom, but I didn’t get this one at first. What you describe is standing apart from everyone and being on your own, not so much excluded but not included either. And I didn’t get that with brotherhood when it’s true and real like you describe. There was a disconnect for me being satisfied being apart. Then in Dean’s comment, he said you were a leader and I’m guessing had a big part putting it together. And it hit me that you were already a part of it and didn’t need more to be satisfied and at peace.
    One of the ways I experience humility are those times you encounter something that’s genuine and pure and beautiful. It could be brotherhood, it could be Jesus, for me sometimes it’s nature like those sunrises that fill the sky, it could be a lotta things. For a moment you forget your limits and that you’re just seeing and you don’t wanna just appreciate it, you can imagine being part of it. The moment always passes too quick and dissolves into longing and hope, but for that one brief crazy moment you touched reality. And in touching it, you realize there’s just so much more and you’re a part of it.

    • Ha, maybe it was a little abstract and unclear. It was a difficult feeling to explain.
      I love your description of what it’s like to encounter the genuine, pure, and beautiful. The moment of touching reality that dissolves and leaves hopeful longing, the next closest thing. The way you describe it reminds me of the moment in a cartoon where a character runs off a cliff but doesn’t realize it, and they float in the air until they realize they should be falling. I feel like I’ve had several of those sublime moments where it legitimately feels like heaven for a scant few moments before my brain catches up to remind me this isn’t heaven, it’s not going to last, there’s no way to ensure this will happen again, etc. Then the weightless moment is over and all that’s left is the longing to occupy it again. I guess it sound sad when I write it out, but life is so much better because of those experiences.

      • Oh man, roadrunner & the coyote. Remember, meep meep! I love that cartoon. I forget how the roadrunner always made it, but yeah, the coyote, there was always that moment when he’s midair before dropping. At church I keep hearing we’re not supposed to focus too much on spiritual experiences. And I get that, but I think those are the rest that’s promised, what it is to abide in Christ. More like the roadrunner where you never drop.

  • Ryan Burger

    Reporting LIVE from the tension between hope and reality, between longing and obedience: inveterate single, complete cheeseball, total nerd, bewildered homeowner, serial relaxer, and long-time Jesus-needer. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I am a software developer by trade. My passion is helping non-straight followers of Jesus discover their place in the body of Christ. All my "comfort music" is about being far from home and/or returning home. I'm an Enneagram 9 if you're into that sort of thing. I have recently started reading poetry for fun; please send me your recommendations!

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