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.”