Archives For Friendships

On Friday I received a text from one of my closest buddies informing me that Stacy, one of my college friends, had committed suicide. I was immediately overcome with emotion – a whole bucket full of sobbing, cursing, shouting, and stunned silence to boot. Frankly, there were brief moments where I was inconsolable. Something was breaking in me. Indeed, the depth of anguish and sorrow was so profound that there were times I even wondered where it was coming from. But here are my thoughts.

Stacy and me circa 1990

I’ve said many times that the greatest gift I ever received from Baylor were the friendships formed over those four years in Waco. For me, that brief chapter in life was almost magical. It seemed the bonds of friendship were formed quickly our first semester as freshmen. This gaggle of kids who were trying to figure out who they were and who they wanted to be immediately connected; we ate lunches together, took road trips, opened God’s Word and prayed for each other, danced with each other at various formals and local honky-tonks, always stopped to talk if we saw another of us walking around campus, and even a few shared brief romances that we reflect upon with more fondness than embarrassment. We laughed a lot, spoke of spiritual things, and offered our shoulder for those who needed to shed a tear or two.

Stacy was firmly fixed within the constellation of those friendships, almost as a sister we wanted to protect. Our sophomore year she even moved to the apartment complex that we guys had chosen so she could be with us. Maybe she felt we would protect her as well. Truth is we would have done anything for Stacy. Everyone loved her because she embodied the best of what those friendships looked like – a godly woman, a godly friend. She just joined in with everyone else as we learned how those kinds of friendships could be formed.

To look back on those times is to be awash with a little nostalgia and quite a bit of melancholy where one hearkens for the “good ole days” when life was simple, beautiful, and innocent. Sure, it might’ve been a little on the naïve side – it is college – but those relationships were sincere, hopeful, spiritual, and powerful enough to leave an impression on me for what defines real, godly friendships. In fact, it’s almost darn near ruined me ever since.

So it’s possible that in my mind’s eye I want to keep those years at school and the people I loved in them untouchable. I felt like in those friendships I was given a masterpiece painting, something priceless and rare, a possession many would want but few would ever find. It was so meaningful I have hung it high above on the mantle of my heart where it would serve to inspire me and drive me to better friendships in life. In way, Stacy represented not only a dear friend but the grace of best kind of friendships.

So when I got word that she committed suicide it felt as if someone or something drew a big black mark across the canvas. The beautiful and good was disfigured and marred. It was a tragic way to be reminded that the brokenness of sin sinks its claws into everything. And that you don’t get to keep anything for yourself that isn’t protected from its reach. The darkness not only assaults your present but can assail your past. Thus, Stacy’s death felt tragic to me…and in me. Something was stolen from me, and it’s not coming back this side of Jesus’ return. That’s my best guess on why I feel this so deeply.

And that won’t change any time soon because this does strike me in my core. The pillars have shaken and there may be a few cracks within. For all the goodness and grace in which those friendships shaped, taught, and blessed me over the years, it only makes sense that when we lose one of us we also lose a little bit of ourselves. That just might be what this is: a losing of Stacy and a little bit of me.

I love you Stacy. Kyrie Eleison.

I recently returned from a 30-day respite. Most of that time was spent at my family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country (outside of Hunt). As I reflect on my time spent at the ranch, here are a few things that come to mind (with the help of Instagram):

Topo Chico – I’ve gotten hooked on sparkling water thanks to some of the CCCC executive staff guys but drinking some of Monterrey, Mexico’s finest out of its ice cold bottle was hard to beat as I drove alongside the Guadalupe River. I’m a fan of this agua mineral.

San Antonio – If you weren’t sure where Texas came from, visit San Antone. It will be clear that the Lone Star Nation used to be a part of Mexico. I love the Latino mix that is San Antonio. It’s a city unto itself. Pure Tejano.

Fandango – For more than a decade I’ve connected with my Baylor buddies for the better part of a week each June. The majority of time we meet at the ranch. It’s always one of my favorite times of the year.

The Auslander – This German-Texan restaurant in Fredericksburg has been a regular stop for my Fandango buds for years. We sit outside in their biergarten and eat the biggest and best chicken fried chicken around! Prosit!

Luckenbach – For a long time I’ve wanted to visit the fabled town of Waylon, Willie, and the Boys. This summer proved to be the reckoning and what a time it was. Driving up I thought the place might play out like a bad theme park but Sunday night found local musicians singing songs in a round. With my friends in hand and the summer evening beginning to cool, it was magical. I won’t soon forget it. Also, I just leveled up as a Texan.

The Hill Country – Growing up, I spent every summer I can remember in the Hill Country. So driving out to the likes of Kerrville, Ingram, and Hunt is like driving home for me. I love the land’s rugged beauty, wide vistas, and open country. It’s full of bluebonnets, Indian blankets, Mexican hats, cacti, cedar (aka Ash Junipers), deer, coyotes, armadillos, and a million other things that make it what it is (watching out for the occasional scorpion or rattlesnake, of course). Best night skies to sit under and talk with your friends as the wind blows, the crickets chirp, and the Chuck-will’s-widows call out to each other.

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Swimming Lil Blue Hole style. #thelife

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Little Blue Hole – This is part of the Guadalupe River that’s been my family’s swimming hole for years. It’s especially fun to jump into when the temps soar into the high 90’s during the summer. I’ve fished it, tubed it, and swam it. However, one of my favorite ways to do Little Blue Hole is sitting on the little rock ledges underneath the water so I’m about head-and-shoulder high out of it while my college buds do the same, as we share our stories and lives. Then it becomes the best place on earth for that moment.

Bruce Waltke’s Old Testament Theology – I’ve been working through Waltke’s book off and on for more than a year. It’s a big one but every time I invest in reading it, it always pays dividends. I often leave thinking: #1) I don’t know the Old Testament very well and, #2) the Old Testament is worth knowing well. It rained for almost two weeks straight while I was at the ranch, giving more ample time to spend reading this wonderful book.

Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.
– C.S. Lewis

Under the Texas sky having conversations 25 years in the making.

Upon leaving for college my mother gave me some wisdom which guided me every day I spent at school. She said there would be no other time in my life where I would live in such close proximity to so many of my closest friends and that I should take advantage of that while I had the chance. I did. I say all the time that the greatest thing I got from college isn’t the diploma that hangs on my wall but the friendships which hang in my heart. Unfortunately, upon graduating it is easy to let those relationships fall into disrepair as years pass. This is only the natural way of things as we move into new circles and stages of life. But this doesn’t have to be so. Indeed, it’s only being a good steward of the friendships you forged years ago to maintain them as best you can. Sometimes I do this well. Others times not so much. Yesterday I returned from an annual trip with some of my closest college buddies and was reminded, once again, why old friends aren’t only priceless, they are worth the fight to maintain in your life. Here are three reasons that come to mind.

#1: You need people you can’t fool

It’s too easy to dazzle people with a happy face, a few funny lines, or a good story leading them to think that you have it all together. If they only know you for a snippet of time then the charade can continue. But old friends not only know your current chapter of life but the ones preceding it. They’ve seen whatever arc your story has taken over the years – the wins, the losses, the heights, the depths, and everything in between. You can’t fool them, and that is a very good thing! Old friends push us to become honest with ourselves in a way young friendships simply can’t. They force me to remove any masks I’m trying to wear and to deal with the face looking back at me in the mirror.

#2: You need people that can pick up where you left off

Beginning new friendships take work. One of the reasons is the copious amount of time it takes to do our “due diligence” to see if this relationship is worth investing in; that is, will this person be faithful, honest, loving, etc.? Unfortunately, there are times where you’ve invested literally months into a relationship only to find out that, for whatever reason, it’s just not going to work. But old friends have a built-in efficiency about them. You don’t have to wonder if this is someone you can trust, be vulnerable with, or open up to. On the contrary, they are people who you can go as deep as you like as soon as you like. No warm up needed. No vetting. These are friends that can pick up where you left off because of the years you’ve invested emotionally in each other. With old friends you don’t have to think twice about picking up the phone and having someone comfort you when things go south, or celebrate with when things are better than you could’ve ever believed. More priceless than gold, I tell ya!

#3: You need people who aren’t impressed with you but love you still

Old friends know your story in its long-form. They see you in epic not short story. Because that’s the case, they will be less likely to be impressed by you. Why? Because they knew you when you probably didn’t even know who you were yet, and you hadn’t done anything except be a friend. That’s it. This doesn’t mean old friends won’t cheer for you or give you kudos when you do well (they’ll often root for you even more!). It’s that you won’t feel the need to one-up yourself in front of them or throw your credentials/accomplishments around to gain their acceptance. You’ll have this great freedom to just…be…you. In my case, I’ve got men who don’t view me according to the roles I hold as pastor, preacher, or author. To them I’m not Pastor Yancey or Dr. Arrington. I’m just Yancey, their buddy they met 25 years ago. There’s no pedestal-factor with them because they not only know the latest chapter of my story, but most of the chapters that lead up to it. If anything, my old friends have a good way of reminding me that I’m not as great as others may think. And still they love me. Oh, to be truly known and still loved.

Old friends, in a way, are a good picture of the gospel. I can’t fool Jesus. I can’t impress Jesus. I can’t hide from Jesus. And yet, with all my faults and foibles, Jesus helps me become honest with myself, lets me pick up with him where I left off, and loves me in spite of myself. What still blows me away is that Jesus not only gives me himself, but has given me old friends to remind me how good Jesus truly is. Listen, make it your aim to steward your old friendships well. Believe me, it’s worth it!