I’m Joseph, a 60-year-old married YOBBER and father of three adult children who looks forward to a family growing soon. I’m a semi-retired high school teacher of philosophy who still enjoys reading, writing, and interacting with brothers in this YOB community. I’m always active in my Church and local community through volunteer work with Scouts, as a Lector, and wherever I am needed. I enjoy cooking, singing, hiking, and activities with family and friends.
When you are 60, you’d think that you no longer experience growth spurts. It’s more recognizing life’s process of devolution and slow decay, at least on the outside.
This year’s YOBBERS retreat was not about expecting profound change, or gaining insights into myself and God that I would carry home; rather, it was seizing an opportunity to meet a group of men with whom I had dialogued, listened to, and only seen in postage stamp-sized pictures on Zoom — men of faith who share a common struggle to live the sexual ethic of the Gospels as they understand it.
But our God is a God of surprises . . .
Humility is a lifelong project. The rebel in me struggles to control and manage life on my terms, not God’s. A trait I am sure I share with others is that I want security and protection from all eventualities that could rock the boat; this struggle has been constant.
Let go and let God . . . let go and let God.
But to trust in His providence means that I cannot predict any of the outcomes. I must relinquish control. Humility is not so much about seeing myself as worthless as it is recognizing my incredible poverty compared to the Lord of the universe.
He is the potter; I am the clay. Pride does not allow us to see this truth but generates the illusion that I am the master of my own destiny and do not need God’s help and intervention.
Well, my whole retreat weekend was God’s intervention — His reaffirmation of who is in charge and who knows best, and I had to let go. This began from the moment I arrived at the airport until I was comforted by the gentle arms of brothers embracing me at our camp, after a harrowing experience where technology, my own ingenuity, and my self-confidence had completely failed.
It continued at our camp where my friends whom I’d made online, though present, were unavailable, or I was wrapped up in other activities with a group of randomly chosen men. All those connections that I had forged up to that retreat were neither in my small group nor my cabin. Every time I looked for them, they were busy with others.
However, it was all okay.
I was pulled from my comfort zones and asked to stretch my arms to embrace my brothers — new brothers, loud brothers, shy brothers, scared brothers, and some anxious brothers. They, too, were being taken out of their comfort zones.
God wanted something from me. He wanted me to let go and let Him show me what he wanted to show me. He displayed how I analyze, categorize, and pigeon-hole everything by placing people and things into neat little boxes.
I am an Enneagram Five, for those familiar. We like to gather data and organize it into neat and tidy systems of thought. I caught myself beginning the process:
I cannot trust that person . . .
That guy is too loud . . .
That guy kept me awake all night with his snoring . . .
All these beautiful men, my brothers, were being sorted into their respective boxes. But God and Tom were having none of that. “Speed dating,” a Five’s worst nightmare, was about to begin.
Do not get me wrong, I like meeting new people — one-on-one and on my own terms. However, this was like meeting Godzilla on the field of battle. I had to prepare myself like a Shogun warrior for a marathon of encounters with guys I had been pigeon-holing the past several hours.
It was hard. It was revealing. It was humbling because they were, for the most part, uncomfortable with the process too. I made new friends during that time. It wasn’t long enough time to take everyone out of their boxes, but I had learned something about myself.
Many years of teaching had required me to organize many different students into various groups, like the “Sorting Hat” of Harry Potter. I discovered that I was applying the same logical strategy to my brothers, and they were surprising me at every turn with incongruities that burst my analysis and landed them into an “I won’t be judged” box.
So, I settled for being powerless and not in control. I accepted that my strategies for managing situations were not going to work, and I just went with the flow. I ended up playing games with men I barely knew, and it was fun!
I did not spend much time with any of my YOB friends, but I spent a lot of time with my YOB brothers. I discovered brothers who were shy and artistic, who liked to sing and were pretty good at it, who loved coffee more than I did, who smiled at me when I smiled at them.
And at the end of it all, when we sang the Doxology together and Tom gave us his teary-eyed blessing, I began crying. I went to a new brother with whom I had chatted, and he hugged me. I was part of this motley crew. These were and are my brothers. I grew in closeness, trust, love, and acceptance.
God also had more in store once I arrived at the airport with two Californian brothers travelling with me. I was told my flight had been cancelled. Fearful, I went to the ticket counter and discovered that I had been given a new flight four hours later.
It was a gift, for I could now spend a few more hours with two brothers whom I had just met. My retreat could continue.
How good and wondrous God truly is!
How have you seen your comfort zone expanded among a group of new people? Have you been surprised by new growth in your life?