Kevin’s Death — My Holy Discontent
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.
Having grown up in an Assembly of God church and having worked at a Bible Fellowship Church camp, I think I know exactly what you mean about being more worried about hair length and so on…
Find a way to be there on that Tuesday. Although I prefer not to give any details, I can say with some certainty that if you don’t go, you’ll have a harder time letting your non-participation go.
You should know that when Kevin’s family picked him up from that camp, he came running to their car, his face beaming with joy – he couldn’t wait to share the joy he had found in Jesus with his younger brother and sister. Someone at that camp saw beyond his long hair and penchant for trouble. Unfortunately, the many tragedies and the world hardened his heart and he turned away from God’s saving grace. I only hope that some time during that last week in the hospital he found the joy he once knew at that camp.
…the length of our hair, the color of our skin, the degree of our “spirituality”…all play into how we are “accepted” and/or embraced by the church. I believe scripture points to the condition of our hearts – and the grace that the “Kevins” in my life have experienced. Grace and peace abound when we (the church) pay more homage to the condition of the heart than the conditioner we put on our hair, our clothes, our homes.
Thanks Jackie, I didn’t know that, but it gives me a bit of comfort. I’ve been thinking a lot about you. I know you had a good relationship with Kevin. Thanks for everything you gave to him over the years. I know it made a difference in his life.