This year’s YOBBERS retreat came as I was still recovering from a serious auto accident; as such, I didn’t have the physical stamina I’d have preferred this year. Spiritually, however, this retreat was an absolute delight; in that regard, I had plenty of energy.
This was my second retreat, and I was a lot more excited this year. I never got nervous for my first retreat. I knew it would be good; I just didn’t know how truly good it would be. This year I came with many more expectations, and I can honestly say this retreat surpassed them all.
I’ve learned that these retreat weekends are ones where I can let my “gayness” show.
While all the messages and stories shared at the retreat were really good, two in particular stood out most. The first dealt with aging as a “Side B” Christian. We use the term “second adolescence” a lot in our community, but I sometimes wonder if I ever even had my first. Much of my early years were spent trying to understand my physical disability; additionally, I faced a hefty amount of family drama and trauma that I certainly missed some important adolescent milestones.
As I listened to this first YOBBER’s message, I thought back to the number of times these past few years that I’ve experienced and learned something new about my sexuality, despite my forty-plus years of living.
Sometimes I forget how nuanced the Side B life is. Due to this nuance, I’ve experienced many instances of not knowing what spiritual, sexual, and masculine growth looked like for someone in my situation; so, I simply did nothing.
To paraphrase Eve Tushnet, though, the Lord doesn’t call us to “nothing.” Throughout this first message, I was blessed and challenged with ways to be more active in my call to celibacy (or possibly a mixed-orientation marriage one day?) and for the Lord to fulfill me even more as the years pass.
What spoke to me most from this message was an understanding that we as Side B Christians may take longer to process our sexuality and spirituality, perhaps even longer than other members of the LGBT+ community. The guy who gave this message is also in his forties, and I believe we’ve had many similar life experiences. He also presented a really nice reframing of gaining maturity as we age, as well as learning more about these complicated issues of sexuality.
The second message of the weekend which really hit home centered on the story of Mary of Bethany. I’ve read the passages that paint the picture of her devotion to Jesus, but I don’t believe I’d ever heard a message or even thought about how against cultural norms — even how scandalous — it was to pour such expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.
The YOBBER who shared that night did a beautiful job presenting Jesus in both His holiness and humility, His hand ever outstretched to the marginalized. I’m actually a bit more grateful to be a celibate gay Christian after hearing it. The message also focused on how Jesus joins us in our hurt and confusion as we struggle with same-sex attraction and strive for purity.
“Jesus is the reason that we have chosen to live the way that we are living,” he spoke emphatically.
When he said that, I thought back to a night in college in the early days of wrestling with my sexuality. I don’t remember how many different books, articles, and sites I’d read, but I do know it was enough to get me quite frustrated with an already difficult situation.
The one thing that kept me somewhat grounded in those months was Jesus. I knew that if I continued to pray and call out to Jesus (often after I’d engaged in strong homosexual thoughts or pornography), I could look up Scripture or bring it to memory, recounting the Lord’s grace and also His holiness.
This second message acted like a personal mirror, and indeed an answer to those early years of struggle, prayer, and reading on the issue — not just Scripture but also many commentators supporting both the traditional and affirming views of sexuality. My commitment to the call of Jesus kept me focused in my searching.
I would be remiss if I did not give a shoutout to my tribe (small group). My Joy tribe was a beautiful collection of men who have been in YOB for many years, as well as some newcomers. We all learned from each other.
Being on Joy felt ironic. My spirit was willing this year, but my flesh was weak. I was only a few weeks out of the hospital following a front-end collision, and while I am now okay, the road back to good health has certainly been challenging. One subtopic we kept circling back to all weekend was that joy comes from Jesus and is thus constant; our happiness comes from our happenings and is thus fleeting.
While I struggled to physically maneuver our beautiful, mountainous retreat center, I felt such intense joy meeting with so many of my other brothers. Any physical limitations took a distant backseat on my experience this wonderful weekend.
One thing I love so much about the YOBBERS retreat is all the time for community, which is vital for my Christian walk; however, we also have our share of independent meditation. I was alone in the sanctuary once, just me and the Lord, and I sat there simply experiencing peace — perhaps because I had finally set aside time to focus on Jesus and my homoerotic attractions, simultaneously.
Even now as I write this, it does seem like quite the odd combination. However, it was such a calming moment in that sanctuary, considering how I could be in a place to reconcile these two seemingly opposing areas of my life.
My biggest takeaway from this year’s retreat was simply continuing to do this Side B life with other believers. One of the central themes of that Mary of Bethany message was “Jesus is the vision.”
I love that statement so much. It’s probably going to be written numerous times in my journal, and I imagine it will find its way into future blogs.
I’m so grateful for brothers also pursuing this same vision of Jesus. That we’re able to meet regularly online, as well as in localized groups and at these camp retreats.
All these interactions within YOB continuously point me to Jesus.
Our one Hope.
For future retreats, I’m already praying that all the messages, shares, small group gatherings, and even downtime conversations will point us to this continuing vision: “The vision is Jesus.”
Where do you struggle to find joy in your faith? When you have felt most emboldened in your faith to pursue Jesus as your vision?