“What are you hoping to get from this retreat?” Tom asked. It was right before our first tribal (small group) gathering. I didn’t know who’d be in my tribe yet — actually, I didn’t even know on which tribe I’d be placed yet.
The question caught me off-guard. Not because I hadn’t thought about it. I knew why I was there.
But I hadn’t considered that I had come to the YOBBERS retreat to receive anything.
Going into the weekend, my mind was consumed with logistics and details for meal prep. Overseeing five meals over three days for 44 people required a good amount of attention. And I was giving it all I could.
The first day, as guys started arriving, I sequestered myself to the kitchen. I organized and re-organized the pantry, rummaged through every cabinet in reach, and wrote down every detail I could think of. When the time came, dinner prep began and I went into action.
You see, I had come into this weekend with one goal: to work. My only expectation was to work. My only motivation was to work. I knew my place was the kitchen, and I intended to praise God with a spatula in one hand and a frying pan in another.
But things didn’t quite go well that first meal. Food was out late, the process was unorganized, the kitchen was a sauna, and — most horrifying of all — I messed up the primary dish.
In an attempt to ensure the pizzas didn’t stick to the pan, I made a calculated error: the danger of using wax paper in a convection oven.
Instead of 19 beautifully baked pizzas, I ended up with 19 wax bottomed slabs of bread, sauce, and toppings.
I was mortified. I could barely emerge to show my face. In fact, I opted out of eating that first meal and hid away in the kitchen alone once the food (and attached wax paper) went outside to serve. Shame, guilt, embarrassment — all of it came crashing down as I imploded silently against the counter.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to get as far away as possible from the shame of what had just happened. After all, I came here to serve — and I had just failed miserably at that.
There was no way I could continue on with the YOBBERS retreat with any hope of redeeming myself. It would be better if I were just gone.
However, I realized I had no way to leave. I had no car, and I was nowhere near anyone else who could come rescue me. There was no escape — I was trapped.
In my defeat, I began cleaning. I wiped down every counter, every dish, every little object I could find. If I looked busy, maybe I could hide. Perhaps I could tuck myself in the kitchen and never have to leave the entire weekend.
A few people popped in and out of the kitchen amidst my depression-cleaning. One brother noticed and gave me a hug. Everyone else seemed to accept my cleaning as normal behavior.
Alas, I could only hide for so long. Eventually, I was pulled from the kitchen for tribe placements. I reluctantly joined, striving to disappear into the background.
I got randomly placed in the Brotherhood Tribe. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it — I wasn’t sure how “brotherhood” would help with my coming here to serve or with my recent kitchen meltdown.
But then my tribe went off to meet. We sat down in a circle, and I began to lead us in a round of “hot seat” questions for each other. And that’s when something odd began happening.
The shame, the guilt, the mortification of the pizzas — it all began to fade. And it faded quickly.
It wasn’t because of anything my tribe said; it was in how they treated me. They treated me with kindness.
With love. With fondness.
No one said anything about the pizzas or wax paper. No one tried to comfort or console me. Instead, they simply treated me as a person — a brother.
I realized that these guys had come to this YOBBERS retreat for the right reasons. They came to honor Christ, love one another, and encourage each other. And that included me.
I realized that I had come expecting to work and only work, with no expectation to receive anything.
And yet, here I was, seated among seven incredible men who were honoring Christ by loving me and encouraging me. I was speechless. I was humbled. And I was convicted.
It’s as though I had forgotten that this community — YOB — was about doing life together through sharing our stories. I’d become distracted by everything I was supposed to do and forgotten why I was doing it.
I had become a Martha amongst 43 Marys.
That first tribal time saved the rest of the YOBBERS retreat for me. After that, I felt joy — something I thought was gone, for sure, after the wax-bottomed pizzas.
It seems that “brotherhood” was what I needed after all. I needed to remember that’s what this community was — a brotherhood. Yes, I do serve. But I serve as a brother and not a hired worker.
And, ultimately, I serve to honor Christ: by loving my brothers and encouraging them in their walks with Christ.
That’s what I got out of this year’s YOBBERS retreat.
I couldn’t have gotten there without my incredible brothers from the Brotherhood Tribe — seven of the most incredible, beautiful, wonderful, loving, and Christ-like men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
When have you experienced a meaningful time of brotherhood? Have you ever expected to receive judgment and separation, only to receive love and inclusion?