As most of you probably know, it’s been nearly a week since Kyle Lake, pastor at University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, passed away. It’s been a long week for many, maybe even you.
I have to admit I don’t know Kyle. Never met him. Hadn’t heard of him. But Monday morning I went to my office, kinda drained after Sunday, and did what I always do after turning on my powerbook and logging in: check the news. I don’t know why, I’m only 27 (at least for a few more days) but I’ve become over the last couple of years a bit of a news junkie. Maybe it’s those unforgettable images of 9-11 that began to draw me to the news. Anyway, I happened to see a headline that said something to the effect of “Pastor electrocuted during baptism service”. My first thought was “I hope he didn’t die.” I don’t know if electrocution always ends in death or what. I had no idea that when I clicked the link, it would bring up the pastor of a church I had heard of and knew a little bit about. I was shocked that it was so close to home and immediately saddened, despite not knowing Kyle.
I called my best friend Shawn and he had just read the news and we both were in disbelief. Shawn and I bounce ideas off of each other constantly. We’ve had tons of conversations, mostly upbeat and excited about things, but this one was slow, confused, not sure what to say. So we did the only thing we knew to do… we prayed together on the phone. Normally that might seem kind of wierd to me but it was natural and I’m glad we did it. We prayed for his family, for his church, for those who knew him. Really we didn’t know what to say, just asked that God would intervene and be known through this.
I’m not sure what happened next. I for some reason began to be drawn to this story. The first and main reason was that David Crowder, a songwriter/worship leader/artist that I have much respect for, helps out at this church. I knew he was on a very big tour so my first thoughts were a sick feeling in my gut for him and his bandmates, not just that they were so far away and grieving the loss of a close friend, but also the pressure in the midst of that to do something about their packed schedule. I logged on to the David Crowder Band website and their schedule was nearly every day playing on the road. I felt terrible for them. I also read that Kyle had a wife and 3 very young children, and my heart grieved for them.
The most amazing story unfolded the next few days though. I googled Kyle’s name like a bazillion times because people were posting on websites and blogs and e-mails and such so fast, there was always something new to be read, some interesting thing. I logged on to the UBC website and began to download and listen to some of Kyle’s messages. From reading so many posts about him, I almost feel like I knew him, like I lost a dear friend and my brain just doesn’t know how to get around it. I didn’t read one bad thing about him. I read a ton of things people said about him, he must have been an amazing person. I also read great lamenting, many people angry, confused, upset, unsure of how this could have happened, etc. Many commented that a promising emergent leader had been removed from the scene. So many emotions, so much confusion, some hopeful, some desparate. I even read a comment Chris Seay wrote, his thoughts about Kyle and this situation “I can’t find a good place to direct my anger. Why the hell did Ben Franklin discover electricity? Why isn’t UBC Episcopalian? I guess that would make it UEC. But mostly this is about a God who would allow this to happen in front of his congregation? This whole thing is dreadful and all I can do is pray that in Kyle’s family and the church he loved so much that something beautiful will come from all this darkness.”
It seems to me a life lived and then ended early provokes so much emotion, so much thought. I read and re-read Chris’ comments, wondering somehow what the answer was to the question I had seen posed over and over throughout this week: “Why did this have to happen? What good could possibly come out of this?” I have to admit I have thought some of those thoughts these last 6 days. A wife, 6 days since she spoke with her husband, since she had a forever companion. 6 days a 5 year-old and twin 3-year olds had a daddy that would come home. 6 days ago Kyle Lake had no idea that this would be his final evening with his family. Yet, in everything I’ve read about Kyle Lake, I’m led to believe he lived every single moment of his life with joy, as if it were his last moment and he’d better make it count.
I spent hours searching and reading about his life, his death, and his message. I found that he had published a couple of books, and inspired me enough that I have plans to order them and devour them. I wish I had found them sooner. I read post after post of those who had known him personally, and all accounts seem the same: that he was a lively fellow, full of love, humor, joy, he was the real deal, desparately caring for those around him. It’s caused me to really think about my life, to think about my age, about my legacy. What am I leaving behind? What am I focused on that has eternal impact? How am I loving my wife in a way that will cause my 4-year-old son to grow up and love his wife in amazing ways? What do people think of when they hear my name? Reflection is the word that describes my life this week, thanks to the life of Kyle Lake.
And so a thought occurs to me… to those who are angry and wonder what good could possibly occur out of this unspeakable tragedy, maybe it has caused a life to be given up that many more might experience life. I know how I was introduced to the ministry, the message of Kyle Lake, how many thousands if not millions were introduced to those things this week also? Sure, Kyle had a great impact where he was, in the lives of those he was in contact with. But in death, his life, death, ministry, and message were propelled to the forefront around the world. People like me who had never heard of him suddenly were spellbound first by the tragedy, and soon after by the legacy a young man left. How many people are buying his books now and reading them with freshness that might never have had that opportunity? I wish there was a way to count how many times his name had been googled this week? You see, in death, his life was suddenly allowed to be pushed to the front page news. Suddenly, a humble young man with a consistent message of love and hope in something greater was allowed to reach millions around the globe. I know I never knew Kyle, but I bet he never dreamed his ministry would be this far reaching! So I reflect again, still saddened, but this time somewhat joyful that out of tragedy, God has allowed something wonderful to happen out of it: a life short-lived, now shared with countless around the world, a message that had great impact in a small area now impacting the world, I just can’t even get my mind around it. Thanks to the internet, media, etc, the message of Kyle Lake is strongly being proclaimed around the world… he believed in a real, risen Savior, and now everyone has the opportunity to know it, a genuine life proved it.
I’m reminded of how Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving, but would be sending the Holy Spirit. I’m sure the disciples were devastated, no doubt confused, hurting, unsure of what exactly He meant. How could He leave them? What would they do? How would His message be proclaimed without Him? Yet Jesus knew that it would, and His ministry and impact on those 11 men was so great that it spread around the world, and is still impactual 2000 years removed. I think about Kyle Lake, a servant of the King of Kings. He lived on this earth for 33 years, impacted many lives, yet in his death, has impacted millions. Thank God we serve a risen King, who makes a way for us to live forever with Him. And, believing in this great King, in His message, and believing that Kyle believed and lived in that same message, I can be sure I will get to meet Kyle Lake someday. I’m grateful God loves us enough to make a way that this could even happen… and as the old hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand!”
May Kyle’s legacy inspire us to seek the King who changed His life, to examine our own lives, and leave each moment to the fullest, as if it were our last.
The following is an excerpt from the last sermon that Kyle wrote:
“Live. And Live Well.
BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.
On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.
Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.
If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well.
At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift.”
For more information, visit the UBC website at http://www.ubcwaco.org