I must confess, I had a hard time getting pumped for this year’s YOBBERS retreat. Not that I wasn’t looking forward to it, per se. I just couldn’t get super excited for a few reasons.
Like most folks out there, I kept feeling the bitter aftertaste of 2020’s horrors still bleeding into this new year. When this summer arrived, I desperately wanted to get out of my house, travel, and see people. Unfortunately, most people were just too busy with work — including me.
While I’ve made so many wonderful connections and friendships through YOB, some haven’t lasted. Some former friends have flaked on me, relationships ending suddenly without even a “goodbye” or an explanation. I’m still trying to process and heal from those friendships. Many attempts at finding and building new friendships have repeatedly fallen flat.
2020 ravaged the “Side B world” (this greater community believing in a traditional sexual ethic) with mixed-orientation marriages falling apart and more people “going Side A,” or taking an affirming theology. On top of all that, one of the few trips I did manage to make this summer ended in disaster as I suffered — yet another — dreadful falling out with a friend.
Frankly, all this relational turmoil boiled to the point that I thought: You know what? I’m sick of gay men. I don’t care if they’re YOBBERS, Side B, Side A, Side X, secular gay, doesn’t matter. I’m tired of them. Tired of the super sensitive personalities, tired of the drama queens.
Heck, the emotionless or stoic personalities of most straight men started to feel preferable to what I’d found lately with other gay/SSA men.
Nonetheless, with our YOBBERS retreat coming up I needed to put aside my negativity as best I could. As with our 2019 retreat, I was assigned to create our 40+ attendees’ name tags along with tribal stones and other decor. Naturally, I procrastinated on all of these projects until the week before the retreat.
I decided to have more artistic fun this time around. I used metallic blue spray paint for this year’s tribal stones compared to our last retreat’s in simple black. While I painted our wooden name tags the same blue color from 2019, I used this blue spray paint to give our badges a subtle, metallic sparkle. I worked until 1 in the morning the Wednesday before our weekend retreat writing everyone’s names with paint markers.
During the long solo drive to our retreat site in northern Georgia, I ran into a horrific isolated thunderstorm. The rain fell hard and thick, and I had to pull over many times. I called Tom on the side of the road and asked about the conditions there twenty minutes away. He told me it was perfectly fine and sunny!
I guess something out there didn’t want me to make it to the retreat as I was seemingly the only attendee smothered by this storm. Thankfully, I did make it to our retreat safely, albeit forty minutes later than intended as I rushed to display all of our decor.
I very much liked the new camp location for our retreat this year, spread out across an entire property rather than isolated to one large building like our only other retreat location from years past. This allowed for a lot of breathing room, so to speak, along with other fun features like a zip-line and putt-putt course. Plus, we didn’t have to cook or clean our meals this year which was nice.
While I saw a few of my longtime friends at this retreat, others sadly couldn’t make it this year. Having this slight “friend deficit” allowed me to step back and observe the interactions and blooming friendships of all the attendees around me — and what I saw honestly moved me.
We shared plenty of camaraderie at our two previous retreats, but this time felt really special. Many of these guys really did seem to love and care for each other in ways their worlds back home have a hard time doing for them.
After our first night of worship, Tom invited us to come up for prayer if we felt lacking in any of YOB’s seven values. He then invited others to come and place their hands in prayer over them. Many guys came up both times, and some even hugged and held each other afterward. Many guys also wrapped their arms around each other during our nightly campfires, the camaraderie palpable.
Through seeing all these brotherly moments, I felt God reminding me that despite my recent relational woes, none of this work has been in vain. Men were finding family with one another at this retreat and in our community, and I’ve been part of this process.
God reminded me to dust myself off and keep going with this crazy life. I left our retreat refreshed and with a full love-tank — hopefully with better days yet to come.