unconditional friends.

they welcome your flaws, they comfort your hurt, they love who you are, they see your true worth.

Yesterday, I experienced the M · A · G · I · C · of a Ben Rector show, for the second time.  Aside from putting on one of the most energetic and enthralling shows I have ever seen, he reminded me of something extremely important — to live in the moment with the people I love the most.  This is something I struggle with on a daily basis.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in preparing for my future that I forget about the present.  And sometimes, I work so hard to earn people’s validation and love, that I forget that it is already freely given.  I was reminded of that this weekend.

Two tickets to Knoxville, please!!!

Over the summer, I attended a residence life conference in Denver (shout out to my ResLife nerds) to learn more about working in the field, and to forge invaluable relationships that would benefit me later in my career.  I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with one of my friends, Jackson, and his family in Littleton, CO, just outside of Denver.  Honestly, they made the trip.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have met this beautiful family and to have gotten to be a part of their shenanigans for a week.  There is never a dull moment with the Wallace family, and I love them so much for that.

As a way of saying “thank you” for being such an incredible host and friend, I decided to surprise Jackson with tickets to Ben Rector.  The first two Nashville shows had already sold out, so I decided we could make a trip out of it and ended up buying two tickets to the Knoxville show!  Granted, this was back in July, so we had a few months to endure before the trip, but I was EXCITED, nonetheless!

The months were long, and they were HARD.

Since my senior year started back in August, I have been juggling a lot.  Let me be straight up and tell you that I overcommitted myself, and it has kicked my butt in more ways than one.  Between my RA job, my internship, my extracurricular organizations, my homework, and the woos and woes of life in general, I’m often left feeling drained, tired, and in need of major restoration.  In addition to all of these things, I’ve been struggling a lot with the intersection of my faith and sexuality.  Singleness hasn’t been easy, and sometimes has felt like more of a burden than anything.  I’m still praying and asking God for guidance, but sometimes it feels like I may never receive an answer.

About a week ago, I decided I needed to get away from campus and do some homework.  I couldn’t focus.  My attention had been occupied by someone I had become exceedingly infatuated with, but knew I couldn’t have.  I started to cry.  I wondered if I was experiencing the same kind of heartbreak I’d only heard others talk about.  I didn’t even have a personal relationship with this person, but it still hurt.  This was real — this was heartbreak.

Through tear-ridden eyes and a cluttered mind, I decided to text my friend, Jackson, for guidance.  I told him about my situation, that it felt like my heart was being pulled in two completely different directions.  We texted back and forth for a couple of minutes, and then he told me this: “As hard as it may be, lean into the truth that sets you free, the truth that you [were] created and [are] intimately known and loved and held by a God beyond our comprehension.”  Even with all the tension my heart was feeling, it felt comforting to know that I had a brother in Christ who loved me through my highs and my lows, and who was praying for me through it all.  The waves settled.  I felt a peace fall over me.

We made one heck of a trip.

Our entire journey to Knoxville and back lasted less than 24 hours, but it was certainly the getaway I needed to refresh my soul.  One thing I’ve learned in my 22 years of living is that the quality of time you spend with someone greatly outweighs the quantity.  A decent portion of our trip consisted of driving through the beautiful rolling hills of East Tennessee, enjoying the intricacies of the Lord’s creation.  We had meaningful conversations about life, basked in our love for early-2000’s country (without judgement), and enjoyed each other’s company with minimal distraction.  Living in the moment felt really good.

When we got into town, we headed straight to the venue and got in line to see Ben.  It ended up being an incredible show, but the greatest part was getting to experience it with one of my best friends by my side.  After jamming out for 3 1/2 hours, we dragged our tired bodies to a local eatery, enjoyed a late-night meal, and headed to our airbnb for the night.

Photo by Noah Weaver on Unsplash

More than just a concert buddy.

Lately, I’ve been searching for my worth in all the wrong places.  I’ve let my work, my future, and my fear of being abandoned become my idols.  Trusting others with my heart has become increasingly difficult, because I’m afraid they won’t want what they find.  Jackson was the voice of reason I needed this week.  He reminded me that my worth is found in Christ alone, and in nothing else.  He has seen my flaws, but continues to love me for what God made me to be.  He’s like the brother I never had but have always wanted.  I feel so much joy writing this, because I get to brag about someone I hold near and dear to my heart.  Simply put, he is an unconditional friend, and I praise God for that every day.

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TO JACKSON, thank you for being such a light in this world.  In the relatively short time you have been at Belmont, you have shown this community what it means to truly love Christ, trusting Him with your whole being.  You constantly amaze me with your wisdom and inspire me with your passion for His mission.  Thank you for always being a shoulder to lean on, reminding me that I’m never alone, no matter how low I feel.  I love you like a brother, and will always fight for you, no matter the cost.  Thank you for showing me what true friendship looks like — it’s a truly wonderful thing.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando