If you're at a retreat and notice a guy talking to a girl throughout the weekend, don't be surprised if you find them both missing later that evening. While everybody else will be returning to the main sanctuary to eat some late-night ramen and play a round of Mafia, these two will likely be absent.
What's interesting though is that these two individuals don't really know each other. They likely just met at retreat and got to know each other throughout the weekend. And now on this last night, after a long evening of worship and prayer, the two of them are gone. Disappeared into the night.
So where did they go? Well, more likely than not, they're probably about to have a one-night stand with each other. But don't worry - they're not sleeping together. That's because they're having the Christian version of a one-night stand.
What Happens on a Christian One Night Stand
So what do I mean by a "Christian one-night stand"? Well, it's kind of like a normal one-night stand. Typically a one-stand begins when a person meets another individual at a bar, gets flirty, and then has a sexual encounter in the evening. Afterwards, despite the deep intimacy they experienced with each other, things feel awkward. So they stop communicating and the relationship ends. That's how a normal one-night stand goes.
Christians tend to do something similar - except they keep their clothes on. And instead of meeting at a bar, they'll meet at a retreat and find ways to talk to one another. Somehow they'll always end up in the same game-groups and they'll always be chatting during free time. They won't sit together during meal times because that'd make things too public. But the real action begins on the last night of the retreat.
What usually happens on this last night is that while everybody is eating their ramen, the guy will ask the girl, "Have you ever seen the sun rise before? Me neither! I always wondered what it'd look like..." And off they'll go by themselves up to a secluded hilltop. And even though they're not dating, she may hold his hands because she's "scared" since it's just so dark outside.
Once they reach the hilltop, they'll sit down and engage in the Christian version of intimacy: Talking. But they're not just talking - they're asking each other questions & revealing deep stuff about themselves. She'll share about past romances and heartbreaks. He'll share personal struggles that he swore he never shared with anybody before. And through this they'll feel deeply bonded.
And then that's it. Before the sun even rises they'll climb back down the hill, go into their separate cabins, and then go home the next morning. And they'll both be laying in their separate beds thinking, "What was that?"
What's Actually Taking Place
If these two Christians keep talking and develop a healthy romantic interest, then this is the beginning of a nice romantic relationship. But if they only exchange a few texts afterwards and then get kind of awkward with each other, then they most likely experienced a Christian one-night stand. And it's like a one-stand because they revealed themselves to one another in a vulnerable way - but this happened not by being physically naked with one another but by being emotionally naked.
Therefore what transpired was a moment of deep intimacy between two strangers. And that's why it often ends up being weird when they go back home. They moved so quickly from being acquaintances to being emotional lovers. And now that they're home, they fear they revealed too much. It's like letting someone see you naked and now you're not sure if they're snickering at your body. So it ends up being an awkward relationship that eventually ceases to exist.
Why does this usually happen at retreats? I think there are a lot of factors. At a retreat, you're away from the real world. The worship atmosphere also sets a certain tone. The communal setting cloaks a person's hidden intentions. The weekend creates a lot of face time with opposite genders. And the late night makes a person feel hidden and thus more open to share. But I think there's more.
Why Christian One-Night Stands Occur
So why do some Christians participate in these PG-versions of a one-night stand in the first place? I'm sure there are some who are a simply shady and enjoy "conquering" people of the opposite gender. They like the attention they can garner from individuals and feel a sense of empowerment when they know they can capture the affections of another person. Kind of like why some people engage in sexual one-night stands.
But from what I hear, a lot of people who participate in sexual one-night stands do so because they're actually quite lonely. A lot of them crave intimacy because they don't really experience intimacy on a regular basis. So they participate in this sexual act to receive the intimacy they crave - even if it's just for a moment.
I think a lot of Christians struggle with the same issues and I think that's why they participate in these late talks. A lot of Christians are lonely. And I wonder if they crave intimacy because they may not experience intimacy on a regular basis - so these late-night conversations serve as an outlet for this perpetual loneliness. But like real one-night stands, these often only serve as a temporary pain-killer to numb the real pain that's taking place.
I don't think every Christian has experienced what I described above, so apologies if all this seemed foreign. And by no means do I think this is a serious issue. I just like to point out interesting things that we Christians seem to do in Christian sub-cultures. And I do this not to laugh (well maybe a little) but to discover - particularly why Christians do certain things.
But also winter is usually the time when a lot of churches & para-churches have retreats. So I anticipate a lot of secret late-night talks transpiring between lonely, young Christians. Again I don't think anything is really wrong with this (unless you're that shady person looking to conquer). But I simply want to articulate its existence and propose a deeper reasoning behind what's often taking place.
Good luck pastors.