Most days I still don’t understand.
Most days I want to believe I’m just lucky. But I’m not one to put stock in luck.
So most days I turn my head up and question the all-knowing author of human history.
I ask, “how in your grand design and infinite wisdom do you deem me worthy of these two?”
See, I’m not convinced that God orchestrates every minute detail of our lives like we often given him credit for – I refuse to believe in a completely deterministic God.
But I must believe that the God whose very character is relationship cares for us enough to get involved with our interactions and even plan specific relationships for us to enjoy along the ‘space-time continuum’. I have to believe that people exist in our lives for reasons other than the proximity of our respective living situations or engagement in shared interests or coincidence that our parents did the ‘dance with no pants’ and conceived us at similar times.
I have to believe that the existence of some relationships in this life is in fact determined.
And Macklin and Jackson, my two best friends, are the people whose friendships most convince me of this reality.
For some reason, God thought it’d be fun for Jackson and I to meet in diapers at church, to become friends young, and never stop.
For some reason, God thought it’d be fun for Jackson and Macklin to meet young, to become friends young, and never stop.
And for some reason, God thought it’d be fun for me to meet Macklin in Jackson’s car on the way to church in eighth grade, become friends, and never stop.
(For some reason, Jackson’s dad thought it’d be fun too to introduce me to Macklin in the car by telling me he had just gotten out of juvie. And Macklin thought it’d be fun to play along.)
And today, as I reflect on our unceasing friendships despite and average of 686 miles between us, I’m inclined to ask why God decided to have fun with us, and why he deemed me worthy of having Macklin and Jackson become my best friends.
Because, even today, as we ate lunch, shared memories, and laughed, I experienced an overwhelming sense of blessedness, gratefulness and love for these two. I remembered that no one has taught me to love like these two have. No one has taught me to be cool like these two have. No one can captivate a room like either of them. Few people know how to make you feel like the only person in the room like these two can. And few people are loved by others like these two are.
And I’ve truly gotten to see all this play out in daily interactions for the last six years or so. But not as some distant spectator. But up close as a best friend. As a participant.
Jesus had this way of intimately inviting his disciples into his ministry. His invitation didn’t stop at “follow me.” But time and time again he pulled them into action alongside him.
And I know no one besides Macklin and Jackson who so effortless mirror this collaborative love in action of Jesus.
So when I say I was a participant, I mean it.
When I see Macklin and Jackson love, and when I experience it for myself, I know that wrapped in that love is an invitation extended to me to love with them, to speak beauty and truth into the lives of others, and to create blessed friendships for ourselves.
And so I ask, how did God deem me worthy of these two as best friends? When there are a lot of people in this world who so deeply need love more than I, how did I get to enjoy life with two of the greatest love-filled people as my best friends?
Indulge me will you, as I attempt to propose an answer:
Time and time again in scripture, God makes clear that every good thing he blessed us with is intended to be used to bless others. Nothing is meant to stop at us. Instead we are invited to regift everything.
Crops, and land, and wealth, and clothes, and labor, and skills are always meant to be used for the benefit of those who have none, who remain in greater need.
Why not so with friendships?
Are not the greatest gifts in life the relationships we enjoy? Do not the greatest joys come in moments of shared experience? Were we not created by the relational God to find life in relationship?
Perhaps then, I’m asking the wrong question when I ask why I got to be friends with Macklin and Jackson in this life, as if it’s unfair that others didn’t. Perhaps, I’ve looked at friendship through an inaccurate lens this whole time. Perhaps, I’ve been so confused by this blessing, because I’ve missed the point to pass my experiences on to others.
Because, perhaps, friendships were never meant to be enjoyed in isolation.
Perhaps we’re supposed to take the blessing of beautiful and meaningful friendships and use it to speak beauty and meaning into the lives of others.
Perhaps God had fun bringing Macklin, Jackson, and myself together because I’m supposed to accept their invitation to love others, and do it, even when Mack or Jack remain hundreds of miles away.
Perhaps I’m best friends with them because I’m supposed to teach others to love like they’ve taught me, speak beauty and grace both to the room and the individual like they can, and learn to regift love received like they do.
Because if we do any of that like they do, I’m certain we’re that much closer to mirroring the incarnate ministry of Jesus.
So, here’s my first attempt, you (probably non-existent) readers of this blog, at taking what I’ve experienced to be so tremendously wonderful about Jackson and Macklin and intentionally passing it on to you.
Today I interviewed Macklin and Jackson that you might get a glimpse of the joy and life that is so evident in them – a glimpse at the friendship I get to enjoy with them.
May their words and stories offer for you an inspiration to love like I experience every day.
John: First of all, how does it feel to be interviewed for a blog no one reads?
Jackson: It’s a freeing feeling. I know that whatever comes out now won’t be read by anyone. No one will know it except for you two.
Macklin: I feel like I can exude my deepest darkest secrets, for I know that no one will judge me.
Jackson: Except for us.
Macklin: Yeah, well…
John: Some might call this interview the stepping stone to your careers. Are there any words of thanks you’d like to give me in advance?
Macklin: No. None.
Jackson: Yes. Thanks.
John: Great. How did you two meet?
Jackson: I don’t know. Macklin how did we meet?
Macklin: I think baseball first?
Jackson: Yeah! 9/10 all-stars?
Macklin: Yeah, probably. And the first time, I was in an interesting position, because everyone on the team was basically in Majors and I was still in Triple-A because the rule of the league was that if you had a sibling in the league, you were supposed to be on the same team as them, and my brother was still in the league, but his coach didn’t think I was good enough to be on the team, which is probably right. But I was one of the only Triple-A kids. It made me feel bad. Then Jackson made is ALL better.
John: Was is friendship at first sight?
Macklin: He had these stupid highlights in his hair, so… probably not.
Jackson: Really? I did that when I was really young, but I don’t think so at that point.
Macklin: It had to be something. Because we had another encounter at American Family Video before we were actually friends, and I remember it specifically because it was nerd day at my school, so I was dressed to the nines in all nerdy-ness. My mom and I were checking out the video and I saw you there and I said, “hi,” and you were just like, “hey.” And that was the extent of our conversation.
Jackson: So, no, it was not friendship at first sight!
John: Macklin, do you remember how we met?
Macklin: My first real memory was at a Sprague summer football camp. I was talking with someone I knew, maybe even [Jackson], someone mentioned your name, and I asked which one you were, and someone pointed you out, and I was like, “oh, cool.” But I don’t remember our first interaction together.
John: Let me recount if for you. We were in Jacksons car on the way to Highlife, you and I were in the bucket seats, and Ken introduced you by saying, “John, this is Macklin Kelly. He just got out of juvie.” And you played along, so I half believed you, but played it cool just in case it was a joke.
Jackson: Now that was a start to a great friendship!
Macklin: Ha! I don’t remember that at all! But I love that you didn’t commit to either option just so you didn’t look like a fool.
John: Thanks. So did juvie bring about any great epiphanies?
Macklin: Wow, yeah. Man, that was a rough time in my life. A lot of darkness there. But that car ride must have been one of the first times I went to Highlife, because I only went in eighth grade at Jackson’s bidding.
Jackson: Which means we must have been friends in seventh grade. When did we actually become close friends?
Macklin: Well, it must have been when we were on the Blue Jays together. One of my least favorite memories of myself was when I was trying to break through to becoming better friends and I could feel like I was almost there, but I don’t think you were as into it as I was. But one day I was just being so stupid. I was trying to act cool like I knew you. And someone said something jokingly to you, and you just kind of brushed it off. And I said, “aw man you gotta stand up for yourself more. You have to defend yourself.” And I was being stupid and I leaned on you as if I was parting information, and then you looked at me and said, “don’t lean on me.” In that moment, you did exactly what I said to do, but you were so not into it! And then I realized what a jackass I was being. But I guess in middle school was when we got close.
Macklin: Yeah, choir, and playing football after school.
Jackson: Oh yeah, that was fun. We have a cute picture of when you were on the Redskins and I was on the 49ers.
Macklin: Ah yeah! I remember that. Good times. I don’t really remember when [John] and I became good friends though. Must have only been in high school because we didn’t go to middle school together.
John: Well, yes. But I told everyone in middle school that I was friends with you because everyone in the Judson choir knew you as the cute, really good singer from Crossler.
Macklin: Go on…
John: And I just claimed you as my friend. That’s all.
Macklin: What about you guys?
Jackson: Long time.
John: Since diapers probably in church.
Jackson: Yeah. Saw each other every weekend.
John: You know, I often considered us to be a young Padawan and a young grasshopper growing up in separate but equal cocoons with a string attached between them with tin cans on either side through which we communicated.
Macklin: Separate but equal cocoons? Ha! I like that.
John: Is that an accurate metaphor for our blossoming friendship?
Jackson: Yeah, and eventually we morphed into one being through our cocoons. Ha! I don’t think we ever had a moment where we were like, “we’re good friends!” We’ve just always been solid.
John: Yeah, we’ve always just been solid. What was the feature you found most attractive about me when we met?
Jackson: I remember one time, in fourth or fifth grade, there was one time that we went outside at church, and our leader decided we would just have races for small group. And we raced from a tree to the fountain and back, and you beat me by two steps, and you were like the only person who’s ever beaten me in a race. And I was like, “This guys good. He’s fast. I like him. He’s ok.”
Macklin: I thought that might inspire some deep rooted hatred or something. I just thought you had a great ass. Just a phenomenal ass when I saw you.
John: That’s the answer I was looking for!
Macklin: I wish I had a better memory for moments like that. But I don’t ever have a memory of John beating me in a race.
Jackson: That’s because you never had to race him.
John: Some might call us the next Three Amigos. So who would fill whose role between Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short?
Macklin: Jackson, I think you’re more of a Chevy Chase as far as your humor goes.
Jackson: Yeah, and I think you’re Steve Martin and [John] is Martin Short. I think that’s probably fair!
Macklin: Yeah! Ha! I like that.
Jackson: Specifically, when the plane flies over and Martin Short says “I think it’s a male plane, didn’t you notice its little balls?” I feel like that’s a very John Marshall joke.
John: Wow. ok.
Macklin: I hope we age as well as our characters. Because Steve Martin looks a lot better than Chevy Chase at this point.
Jackson: Chevy Chase looks like crap!
Macklin: Chevy Chase looks like he’s dead or dying! Yeah. That will be us.
Jackson: I’m also taking on the role of Pierce from Community by being Chevy Chase. Because he’s rich. And I only want that part!
Macklin: And also the slightly insane part!
John: That’s accurate. How does it feel when I beat you both at Ping-Pong every time we play?
Jackson: That question must be directed at Macklin!
Macklin: It can’t be directed at me either! I don’t think you’ve ever beaten me! And I’m not the most sterling of players!
Jackson: Yeah. Next question.
Macklin: But I would like the world to know that between me and Jackson, that I have a list on my phone of the times I’ve actually beaten Jackson at Ping-Pong. Through the span of two or three years, there are seven or eight occurrences. And we’ve played a lot of Ping-Pong! But yeah, you’ve never beaten either one of us.
Jackson: And it never will happen!
John: Ok. What’s the first memory that comes to mind of the three of us as a unit?
Jackson: [after a pause] Yeah, I don’t really like you guys.
Macklin: Ha! I don’t know either.
Jackson: I first think of the sophomore choir trip to Disneyland. We hung out a lot. That was a good trip.
Macklin: I remember when we went on Tower of Terror the first time. And [Jackson] knew the camera was coming. So while all of us were going crazy and freaking out at the top, you were just in the corner of the shot with a completely straight face. Not amused in the slightest. And I remember looking at him and laughing really hard at that! Can you think of anything?
John: I just think of the Santa Cruz trip.
Macklin: Yeah! That was a great one. So good! I remember it being so easy and laid back. Way more than I expected for 5 guys who had just graduated. It was just so fun!
Jackson: Sneaking on to the rides at the Pier?
Macklin: Oh yes! I don’t think I’ve laughed harder in my life than when we were doing that. Especially the ride that spun put you upside down. I could not stop laughing. I was so giddy!
John: I want to go back! But first, what lessons have impacted you by being in this friendship triangle?
Macklin: Selflessness. You both are very selfless guys. I don’t think any of us have ever fought, or quarreled. That just comes from being even-keeled, and having the discernment to recognize that things sometimes just aren’t worth getting upset over, that others would get upset over. I don’t think I’ve had that experience of friendship with many other people.
Jackson: But each group of friends has to have that one person who annoys everyone else more. So…
Macklin: Yeah ok, I can step into that role.
Jackson: It’s got to be someone. Sorry. But guys you both have taught me the blessing of having godly Christian brothers as best friends, and what that can do for your life. Having someone not just to talk to, but someone who has the same morals and goals. Like being on the football team together was a good way of keep each other in check, like how to be a part of something very worldly like a football team, but still being a light for Christ. I also think we’ve had a lot of fun while not doing stupid things, but doing things that still pleased the Lord. It’s not that I haven’t found other guys who I can do that with, but I’m looking for people who meet the standard you two have set as friends.
Macklin: I like that. And if you look at the life of Christ, he surrounded himself with people who the world thought were not good people. It’s good to do that, and be friends with people who aren’t like you. But Jesus still had his twelve who he came back to. And its good to have that base, those people that you love.
John: What’s your greatest piece of life advice?
Jackson: Love. It’s not that nothing can go wrong. But nothing you do can’t be pleasing to God and to others if you aren’t doing everything you can to love others. It’s the one very consistent thing that Jesus did – he showed love to everyone. Obviously that’s vague, and loving is going to look different in different situations. But be nice. Love people.
Macklin: I’d follow that, but then I’d also say don’t be afraid to love yourself. I think there’s a stigma that confidence equals arrogance always. So people are quick to not like themselves, or put themselves down so they don’t come off as too elitist. But I realize that as I’ve struggled with confidence and finding my own niche, it’s a good thing to think I’m a good person. It’s not bad to embrace that. Own it, and use it to spread love. Be nice. It’s so much easier when you aren’t doubting your ability to do that.