I recently returned from the third in-person YOBBERS retreat — a retreat that miraculously came together despite the chaos of COVID-19, constant cancellations, and even a location change just weeks prior.

Yet despite all that chaos, it was a weekend marked by peace, brotherhood, and unity.

Having been to both previous in-person retreats in North Carolina, I really wasn’t sure what to expect on this newest adventure to Georgia. I had my usual nerves, but those quickly faded as I found myself surrounded by fellow brothers.

This third retreat brought me back a bit to the novelty of our first retreat: about forty Christian same-sex attracted men, all in one place. That 2018 retreat was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it was incredible.

This year I once again felt a strange novelty, although it had nothing to do with sexuality.

After months (now years?) of lockdowns, isolation, and cautious group gatherings, it was wonderful to be united again with so many humans in one place! I was with my brothers, and I felt seen. Our group networking activity or “speed dating” — a chance to spend two minutes chatting with every other person at the retreat — has always been a personal favorite of these retreats, but to do so this year after so much isolation made connecting extra special.

More than anything, though, what struck me about this year’s retreat was a deep sense of unity. As I looked around the room of forty brothers, I considered how what unites us all is our crazy decision to make Jesus our everything — not just to follow Christ in a church on Sunday, but to take a devotion to Him into every single second of our lives.

Our retreat felt like a glimpse into a different kind of Church than I experience today in America: a Church more like what I believe we’d find with the early Church or at persecuted churches around the world today. These churches find themselves unified by common suffering and persecution, or simply due to the rarity of the faith in their regions.

In a similar way, I found myself unified with my brothers at this retreat by a common struggle and goal.

For many of the guys at this retreat, probably the only thing we had in common was our sold out love for Christ. We were all from different church backgrounds and denominations. I mean, where else do you find Catholics and Protestants worshiping together?

We were united despite having different families, occupations, hobbies, and interests. We came from different social and economic statuses; some were married, and some single. Yet those forty guys felt like brothers to me in a way few other Christians have.

It seems as if when you truly taste the deep cost of picking up a cross to follow Jesus, nothing else matters except those walking alongside you, cheering you on even as you cheer them on in their burden.

I don’t think this unity is exclusive to “Side B” Christians; rather, I think it is something we can find with any who have found the beauty of Christ through following Him to crucifixion. What we may have lacked in lived common experience in this world, our community made up for a hundredfold in our common spiritual journeys.

It’s hard to walk this road in isolation. I’m so grateful for this community of brothers that can look on one another and know deep in our bones that C.S. Lewis is right when he says:

“You have not chosen one another, but I [God] have chosen you for one another.”

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  • Indeed it was great, Aaron! The first retreat was wonderful but there was something a bit more special about this one. Being united under Christ creates such love and camaraderie.

  • Gorgeous. Unity for sure isn’t unique to side B, but there was something deeply special about the unity, camaraderie, and closeness of the retreat. I’ve never experienced something like that in Christian spaces before. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Kaleb! Such an amazing experience. Grateful to get a chance to experience a feeling of being truly a part of a Christian family. It can be sadly elusive in other Church settings!

  • Wow – it was great to read about the retreat! I am so happy for all of you who got to go. That CS Lewis quote was great also. I am sure the memories will linger for a long time and those friendships formed will be blessed by the lord to help carry you all on in these uncertain times.

  • The retreat sounded so good, both healing and rejuvenating in both Tom’s & your posts. I don’t remember hearing that CS Lewis quote before but it sounds like Jesus’ words, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…” I’d like to think however we came to this ssa journey, that God chose us in it and for it, not in spite of it. It must’ve been a great time being together, with y’all in spirit.

    • Sorry for the twofer but dang it’s been awhile. Life just seems crazy different since Covid. Walking this ssa journey is challenging enough even when things aren’t this crazy. It’s been hard thinking much ahead and making sense of things spiritually, and that’s been discouraging. I read an older devotional and this part today, hope it encourages you like it did me that things make sense even when we’re not seeing it. “The Lord seems to lead us in a way where we are less and less able naturally to understand Him. He gets us altogether out of our natural capacity, beyond our capacity for interpreting His ways. We just do not know what the Lord is doing, or why He is doing what He is doing; yet it is the way by which we come to a very real kind of inward knowledge of Himself. It may not be capable of explanation in words to anybody, but we know, somehow or other we know, and that is a mighty thing…”

    • Thanks, Tom! The tradition has officially been established. A tradition that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you and your passion for Jesus and YOB!

  • I needed this retreat. I would not have told you that before it started but after I got home I realized how I needed it. So grateful for YOB.

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