My cousin Kevin died last week. When we were kids, we were pretty close, same age. I remember all kinds of adventures he and I embarked upon. From snowmobile rides to selling flowers in his neighborhood, from the ocean at Huntington Beach to riding the pigs on our farm in South Dakota. Kevin introduced me to ketchup and bologna sandwiches and I introduced him to church camp.
I think he may have gotten the short end of that deal.
See Kevin had a rough past. His mom and dad divorced when he was young. His three closest friends died fairly young in tragic ways. He struggled with alcohol throughout his life. When his mom died, he and his siblings (a brother and sister) ended up at odds over the inheritance and as a result were not close over the last years.
One year, when we were both still kids — probably 6th or 7th grade or so — Kevin came back to South Dakota (from California) to spend the summer with us on the farm. In the midst of that summer he came with me to church camp. I’ll be honest I was pretty excited about him coming — both because we were friends, and because I wanted him to know more about Jesus. Already at my age I had found that my relationship with Jesus was an important part of my life and I wanted my cousin, my friend to find the same relationship.
Unfortunately when we got to the camp — a fairly conservative, somewhat legalistic camp — the leaders were perhaps more concerned about the length of his hair than they were the needs of his heart. I think that experience marked his view of Christians throughout his life, in a negative way.
Actually I loved that camp, I liked my church. My church at that time was of the same personality, fundamental, somewhat legalistic, very conservative. But my years at that church were — for me, an insider — a positive experience. But not so much for outsiders, which most of my friends happened to be.
It was just a couple of years ago that I ran across the term “holy discontent.” In his book, “Holy Discontent” Bill Hybels writes,
I believe the motivating reason why millions of people choose to do good in the world around them is because there is something wrong in that world. In fact there is something so wrong that they can’t stand it.
As I thought about this term — holy discontent — I realized that my greatest holy discontent was the kind of churches that care more about the people inside than they do the people outside. My holy discontent is churches that think the most important part of church is what happens inside the four walls on a Sunday morning, rather than what happens Monday through Saturday in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces as we serve our city and love our neighbors.
My holy discontent has led me to have a deep desire to be part of a church that Kevin would love. I think we (Calvary) are becoming that church. But Kevin will never know. I guess in a way, if you like Calvary because you have found the people at Calvary to be a people of grace and laughter, a people of generosity and passion, a people who love God but embrace humility — then at least in part, you have Kevin to thank.
His memorial service is next Tuesday. I’m not sure if I will be there or not… but he will be on my mind.