love endures.

one year ago today, I told the world my greatest secret.

A new room, a new city, a new state, a new year, the same nervous Landon. While it is a blessing to have the space to share my heart with you all, it is never unaccompanied by anxiety or fear. Those two things always love to tag along. On this day, exactly one year ago, I told you one of the greatest secrets I had been harboring for 21 long years: that I experience same-sex attraction. Juggling this part of my identity has been extremely difficult, especially in the way that my faith has informed and shaped my view of human sexuality. Today, I sit in reflection over how the Lord has shown me the utmost compassion in one of the most challenging seasons of my life. Let me start by saying thank you for taking time out of your precious day to hear more of my testimony. Honesty and authenticity is truly a weapon for the Kingdom of God, and I’m doing my best every day to lead with a truthful, kind, and compassionate heart.

this year has felt lonely.

The last time I went into detail about my sexual orientation, I told you that I was pursuing celibacy. Many of you probably know what celibacy is, but just in case you don’t, it is essentially the abstinence from marriage or any sort of sexual intimacy with another person. To a lot of people, this may seem like a self-deprecating (and nearly impossible) journey. To be real with you, sometimes it feels that way. I would be lying if I told you that this last year wasn’t fraught with struggles of purity. The temptation to lust over the internet is all too real and is certainly something that I have to fight every day. The thought of never having intimacy with another person can make it easy to turn to things that provide temporary, yet unfulfilling, satisfaction. I believe celibacy is a calling, but I don’t believe it is easy. I have had some long, painful nights where all I wanted was to feel someone else beside me. With all of this in mind, there is still redemption, but you have to keep reading. ūüėČ

While the feeling of loneliness has knocked me upside the head one too many times this year, I would be remiss to highlight just how amazing my support system has been. It’s almost as if I’ve been adopted into a family of believers who are willing to fight for me no matter what. The number of people I have been able to confide in has been utterly amazing and has reminded me of the sovereign nature of our Lord. One of my best friends, Taylor Brown, told me this (which I’ve since tattooed on my brain): “If you ever need a home, you have one with me, bro.” One of the most special parts of true Christian community is that you never have to feel pain alone. When I hurt, my brothers and sisters hurt. When they hurt, I hurt. Satan is always looking for ways to convince us that we have nothing — that we are worthless. The crazy thing is, we try to validate these stupid lies, no matter how fallacious they are. So, for those of you experiencing loneliness in any capacity, know that it is not permanent. It is a feeling (and not a fun one), but the Lord never abandons us. Let my story be a testament to that.

loving my marginalized brothers and sisters.

While my journey hasn’t been easy, it pales in comparison to many of the horrors the LGBT+ community has undergone. I realize the immense privilege I have just by being a white, cisgender male. This week, in particular, we remember and honor the 49 lives that were lost (and 53 that were wounded) in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. This breaks my heart into a million pieces. These human beings were robbed of one of God’s most beautiful gifts because of the hate that one man held in his heart. It’s not fair, nor is it something that we can be complacent about. Precious lives are depending on our action. Instead of always trying to tell another person’s story, we should fight to amplify the voices of those who are being oppressed, giving them the platform to tell their story. Privilege is powerful, and when used responsibly, can be an agent for great change.

As someone who is involved in a Christian community, I believe it is my responsibility to help educate the church about issues particularly surrounding the LGBT+ community. The church should be the safest place for an individual to wrestle with whatever they are going through and should never be a place where they feel threatened or condemned. With as nuanced of a subject as faith and sexuality is, we cannot continue to live exclusively under labels. Some of you may know that I don’t typically refer to myself as “gay.” Yes, I have a homosexual orientation, but the term gay isn’t fully representative of my individual journey. I do not, however, want to minimize others’ experiences, and I absolutely respect people who are comfortable operating under these labels. Personally, I see my sexuality as a very small part of my overall identity, and I would rather have a conversation about my identity in Christ and how it has impacted how I approach this area of my life.

this isn’t a phase for me.

One of the greatest misconceptions about “gay, celibate Christians” is that they just haven’t fully accepted themselves yet. To be brutally honest, I have. I know what my reality is. I know that I can’t look at a girl and get the butterflies that many of my friends can. I know the heartbreak of loving someone who could never love me back. I fully know that my being called to celibacy is not for everyone, and I respect that. However, I don’t want to feel like I have to tell people that I’m still “working through things.” Maybe I’m not. Maybe I’ve actually made my mind up about how I am going to approach this intersection in my life. Now, this is not to say that I won’t continue studying what the Bible says about human sexuality and how that impacts my life. That is a huge passion of mine. However, I see immense value in focusing on equipping the church with resources that make LGBT+ people feel safer and more loved than they ever have before. Just because I don’t necessarily pursue the same journey as other people in my position doesn’t mean that I’m done fighting for those who are being persecuted. (Being gay is actually still punishable by death in multiple countries, if you can even wrap your head around that). That has to change.

leading with love.

My greatest prayer is that I can bring awareness to an issue that isn’t talked about enough in our churches. The conversations I’ve been able to have with others in a similar place as myself has been one of the most inspiring parts of this year. I truly have found community in places I never thought I would. If I could request one thing from you, it would be this: that you would take joy in pouring into those whose journeys look different from yours. I’m not asking anything of you that I’m not asking of myself. Whether you can fully understand the position your neighbor is in, give them the space to be vulnerable and tell their story. Having conversations about sexuality has gotten easier for me, but only because I have gotten comfortable asking (and being asked) the tough questions. I like to define love as the overwhelming compassion for another person, despite the labels that are thrown at them. Psalm 23, one of the most quotable psalms of the Bible, highlights the inexplicable nature of God’s love. It is written in the present-tense, implying that the Lord’s pursuit of us is unending. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Y’all, it’s time to fully live into this psalm. I’m telling you, Satan QUAKES when we utter this truth!

continuing the conversation.

As always, let it be known that I am always open to fruitful conversation about the topic of faith and sexuality, or any topic for that matter! If you’re ever in need of a friend, or someone who is willing to dive deep into difficult conversations, my door is always open. I could never repay the friends, family, and mentors who have given me the space necessary to share my story, but I sure can pay it forward by being that same safe space for others. Let’s build the Kingdom one testimony at a time.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando ‚̧

because He never changes.

it’s the promise we MUST cling to.

The past couple of weeks have felt like a dry spell for me. January was cold, at times lonely, and filled with a nauseating number of late nights. This is the season where I must kick my thesis-writing into high gear and start actually meeting my deadlines. This is the season where I have to stop thinking about being single because I literally don’t have the time nor the headspace. This is also the season where my faith often hits the back burner. So much of this spiritual drought is brought on by letting material things and worldly desires into the cockpit. I haven’t loved or trusted Jesus with everything I’ve had, and it has really hurt.

This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend a worship night, “Carry the Love,” sponsored by a group called the Circuit Riders. The Circuit Riders are a worship team from Huntington Beach, CA that travel nationally and internationally proclaiming the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel and glorifying the SWEET NAME of Jesus. Each year, college-aged students have the opportunity to be a part of this incredible experience, ministering to a world that so desperately needs it. Students can apply to either serve on the music team, the media team, or the messengers team, each challenging them to surrender wholly to the mission of Christ while using their personal gifts to start an honest revival. The mission of Carry the Love is to inspire the world to LOVE LIKE JESUS by preaching the simple Gospel one campus at a time. It truly only takes one person to start a movement, and the time to start is NOW.

Copped a pretty cool flag, too!

We never have to walk alone.

Sometimes, angels trade their wings for baseball caps instead. On Wednesday morning, I was doing homework with one of my friends, when we were approached by a group of three individuals, Timmy, Jackie, and Zach. They asked us if we were planning on worshipping with them that night at Carry the Love, to which I told them I was coming. The funny thing is, my friend had told me about this event a few weeks prior, but God knows I need reminders sometimes. Timmy asked for my number so he could send me more details about the worship night and my plans were set. It was time to let go of my stress, anxiety, and fear and give it all to Jesus.

Belmont showed up.

Y’all, it is so encouraging to see your campus light up with the love of Christ. I don’t think there is any feeling like it. When my friends and I got to the worship night, we mingled around for a bit until things got started. When we got inside and worship began, I began to feel more at peace, like I could let my guard down. I was raised Episcopalian, so charismatic worship has always felt a little foreign to me but honestly, it’s what I needed. A couple songs in, Jimmy came running down the front and hugged me. It was good to see this dude again. Witnessing the passion he had for worship was truly inspiring, and had a real effect on me.

After listening to an incredible sermon by pastor Sammy Rodriguez, it was time for the moment that always creates a giant pit in my stomach: ALTER CALL. For me, I think it is a pride thing. I grew up a Christian, always believing in the goodness of Christ, but that night I just didn’t feel right NOT raising my hand. I needed to reaffirm my love for Christ because I knew I had been letting him co-pilot my life. And that’s just not how Jesus works.

Pastor Sammy invited us up to the front and the Carry the Love team immediately began to shower us in prayer. When Timmy saw me, he made his way across the room and began to pray with me. I unloaded everything I had been dealing with, from the tension of coming to terms with my sexuality to the struggle of staying pure in the age of modern technology and the internet. I told him that I had had a difficult year and that I was ready to fully surrender it to Jesus.

Jesus brings people together.

When I told Timmy that I wanted to write a blog post about Carry the Love and asked if I may include him in the story, he told me that that was fine, but that he’d rather me write about Jesus. What a man of God he is. Of course, Jesus is the silver lining to this story, but I think it is also important to highlight the vessels that have done so much for the Kingdom. The genuine love that this brother in Christ showed me the past few days has inspired me and wrecked me all at the same time. I would be lying if I said I didn’t absolutely bawl in my car Saturday night at the thought of him leaving. When someone prays over you, it elevates your trust for them. Even though we had just met, I felt like Timmy had known me for so much longer. It’s amazing how Christ can bring people of immense importance into our lives so quickly. It’s something I will never understand, but am so thankful for.

The thing I have learned over the past couple of days is this: the people, places, and things of this world will not last forever, and they can change or move out of our life on a whim, but Christ Himself NEVER MOVES. When we truly understand this statement, it makes us realize the importance of the moments we have with fellow believers. Even if I never cross paths with some of these people again, I know I am always with them through the love of Christ. And if they are meant to stay in my life, modern technology sure does help keep in touch.

I also learned that I am truly in awe of the power of Jesus. I am in awe of His steadfast love, immeasurable grace, and unsurpassable mercy. I am in awe that He can bring two people, from opposite sides of the country, together for the sake of His name. It is easy to forget how deep of a sacrifice Jesus made for us when He gave His life on the cross. So often, we are apt to picture the crucifixion as a beautiful symbol for His love, but we forget the pain he actually endured. His side was pierced, His blood shed, all so that you and I may live in freedom, every debt we could ever owe reconciled on His behalf. It’s so hard to fathom that kind of love. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we approached our neighbors with even a fragment of His everlasting love?

We would be dangerous.

Love is what it is all about, friends. I do not believe we can have true love without Jesus at the center of it all. Jesus was the one who taught us how to love by exemplifying what it means to give everything for the sake of the world. That is powerful. We have to be willing to give everything to be with Christ. We either love Him or we don’t. There is no in-between. There is no lukewarm Christianity. Jesus can’t merely be our co-pilot when life gets turbulent, He must be in control all of the time. Approaching our faith with humility and the heart of surrender is hard, but it’s the only way we can let Jesus do the work He must do to sanctify our lives.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Part of fully surrendering to the mission of Christ means GOING PUBLIC with our faith. Our relationship with the living God should be something we celebrate every single day! The true spirit behind evangelism is loving our neighbors enough to proclaim the simple truths of Christianity. We must approach evangelism with love and grace, as everyone is in a different place in their walk with the Lord, but at the same time be diligent in the way we approach truth. Tim Keller once said that “love without truth is sentimentality, [whereas] truth without love is harshness.” We must deal honestly with scripture, but also remember that love is at the center of everything that Jesus did. The good news for us is that it is not our job to save someone’s soul. That’s what Jesus does. We are merely vessels for His mission. Are you ready to go public? No matter where you are on your journey, Jesus will always be there with arms wide open to catch you. As Bethel so elegantly puts it, “Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.”

A note to my newfound pal.

Timmy,

Thank you for showing me the love of Jesus in such an honest and genuine way. The work you are doing with Carry the Love is truly inspiring, and I can’t tell you how much of an impact you’ve had on my life in a matter of 3 days. My heart was aching at the thought of you leaving, but I know you are going to do so much good as a warrior for Christ. This is an incredible calling that you are responding to and I hope it brings you nothing but joy in all seasons. The freedom you boast in Christ is a delight to witness and I pray you keep that wonderful spirit of yours alive all the days of your life. I hope we will meet again someday soon, brother. You are so incredibly loved.

Your brother in Christ,
Landon

Timmy, one of the amazing souls I met this week.

As I tie up loose ends, I would like to encourage you. Whether you are deep in your faith or you feel lost, you are never alone. Find yourself a community of believers who love you through everything and direct your attention back to Christ. Learn how to trust them enough to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a building block for true, honest relationships. Without it, we are left with brittle superficiality. We will not be alone in Heaven, but God doesn’t want us to wait until then to find our people (or His people, for that matter)! I encourage you to approach this week with an awareness for the needs of the people around you. Be the light that you want to see in the world.  Be a friend to an aching soul. You may find you meet someone truly incredible.

If you are interested in learning more about Carry the Love, please visit http://www.carrythelove.com.

Even as all things change, feast your eyes on He who was, is, and is to to come.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando

the enemy of perfectionism.

surrendering perfectionism doesn’t mean waving a white flag

Our minds are powerful.¬† In fact, our minds are so powerful that we can actually create a reality for ourselves that doesn’t and, dare I say,¬†CAN’T¬†exist.¬† For many of us, our humanity craves harmony, a picture-perfect image with neither flaw nor fracture.¬† We’ve persisted to the point of looking in the mirror and hating what we see, only pleased when we can’t recognize the hurt that’s staring back at us.

This hits close to home for me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been extremely self-conscious about my image.¬† I want the world to see the best side of me all of the time.¬† It’s hard for me to settle for less than perfect, which has made letting people down that much harder.¬† I worry about disappointing myself, but my biggest fear is disappointing those I love, or worse, disappointing God.

My sense of perfectionism has manifested itself in several ways.¬† In¬†8th grade, I became obsessed with body image.¬† We’re not talking about healthy body image either.¬† I started to legitimately look in the mirror and despise the shape of my body.¬† I would change clothes because I thought I looked ugly or didn’t look¬†thin enough.¬† I started counting calories.¬† I would refuse to eat more than 1,500/day, because I thought that would keep me healthy.¬† My perception of beauty was severely distorted.

While I was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, my habits were not representative of a healthy mental state.¬† At my lowest, I weighed 96 pounds as a 5’8″ 14-year-old boy.¬† I was literally starving my body one meal at a time.¬† Something¬†needed¬†to change, and¬†it needed to change¬†fast.

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Thank God for mothers.

During the second semester of my 8th grade year, my mother (whom God has gifted with incredible nursing abilities) got involved.¬† She couldn’t bear to witness the self-destruction I was putting myself through.¬† She knew the serious repercussions that would take place if I kept moving in the direction I was, and she wasn’t going to let it continue.¬† There were tears.¬† There was pain.¬† But, above all, there was LOVE and SUPPORT.

My mom helped me regain my nutrition by putting me on a 3,000-calorie diet per day, at minimum.¬† With my metabolism and activity level at the time, I probably needed more, but that was a healthy starting point.¬† Breaking through the fear of weight gain was difficult, but I managed to put on healthy weight a few pounds at a time.¬† I owe so much to my mom and my dad for supporting me through what was really a dark time, even though it didn’t necessarily feel like it in my naive mind.¬† I needed someone who saw me for who I truly was, and who was able to offer up a healthy amount of tough love when push came to shove.

I’m still fighting today.

I would be lying to you if I said I don’t struggle with body image even to this day.¬† I don’t count calories, nor do I keep a scale at school with me, but I guarantee you that’s the first place I go when I get home.¬† It’s almost as if I want to see where I’ve¬†messed up or fallen short while I’ve been away for three or four months.¬† I am able to rationalize things better as a 22-year-old than my 14-year-old self was able to do, but that doesn’t take away the anxiety I still feel when I think about my weight.

Just a little over a week ago, when I returned home for fall break, I was quickly reminded of this anxiety and fear.¬† I stepped on the scale … 128.5.¬† This was two pounds heavier than I had weighed before.¬† While this may sound insignificant to most, it was hard on me.¬† I wondered what I had done wrong — maybe the stress from school was finally breaking me.¬† I started to spiral into my old thoughts again.¬† I reminded myself of this one thing: “You’ve been at the same weight for nearly 5 years.¬† You are growing, you are maturing — learn to have grace with the person you are becoming, physically and mentally.”¬† These pep talks don’t always work, but it’s definitely something I needed to hear myself say.

It’s all in what we don’t see.

Isn’t it funny that we are the only ones who don‚Äôt see ourselves laugh?¬† Smile?¬† Exude joy?¬† When we come to the mirror, we are expecting the worst.¬† We pierce ourselves with the same kind of judgement that we speak out against.¬† What if instead of cursing our reflection, we praised God for what we saw?¬† Isn’t it said in Genesis 1:27 that He “created mankind in His own image?”¬† Isn’t it also said that “The Lord [our] God is in [our] midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over [us] with gladness?”¬† This is the beauty we are missing.¬† I can’t imagine the pain God feels when He sees His children degrade themselves.¬† He wants nothing more than for us to live in JOY through His eternal promise.

I hope to encourage you.¬† Whether you struggle with body image like me, or something else entirely, I hope you remember how adored you are by the living God.¬† I hope you will continue to shower your loved ones with healthy affirmation, celebrating the things that make them uniquely them.¬† I hope you will smile at the person you see in the mirror, for that person has a story, and a creator that calls that story¬†good.¬† I pray that you have the courage to seek therapy if it feels right, for mental health is something that should always be handled with great care and concern.¬† I hope you remember that the enemy of perfectionism is not imperfection, but rather¬†GRACE.¬† Grace for the curves that we try to hide.¬† Grace for the blemishes that we don’t think twice about concealing.¬† Grace for the brokenness staring back at us.¬† The devil shutters at the thought of grace.¬† When we approach the mirror with joy, God smiles, we win, and Satan loses his damn mind.

Let your guard down.  Let yourself receive what the Lord so freely gives.  Let your blemishes be more like blessings, and your imperfections more like intricacies.  You are worthy of love because He said so.  His perfect sacrifice cleared you of the need to live a perfect life.  Do your best to live according to His will, but remember that His grace is sufficient in all ways.  May that be the light that guides you, forever and for always.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando ♥