This week marks the seven year anniversary of the loss of our pastor and dear friend Kyle Lake. Kyle's legacy lives on in many ways. One thing that has been especially meaningful for UBC'ers, those who knew him and those who have joined us along the way since his passing, has been Kyle's benediction that we say as a congregation at the end of the service. I have asked several people to reflect on the benediction and share thoughts with us. I will be posting their stories and artwork here for the next few days.
Love God. Embrace Beauty. Live life to the fullest.
Based on my rough calculations, I have repeated these words about 336 times over the past 7 years. These are the words that our church says together as a congregation at the close of our service every Sunday. To me, though, this simple benediction is more than just words.
Every time I say these words, I can’t help but picture my friend Kyle. I picture his toothy grin and can instantly remember his giddy laugh. Even though it’s been seven years, I can close my eyes and remember exactly what his voice sounded like when he repeated this same benediction.
Every time I say these words, I am reminded…of what a great friend Kyle was to both me & Blair. What a great husband Kyle was to Jen and what a great father he was to Avery, Sutton, & Jude. I am reminded of how much he loved this church…he loved the building, he loved the city that it was placed in, and most of all he loved the people that filled it up. At the same time, as I repeat these words, I am reminded of the pain & shock that we felt when Kyle died. Not a week goes by that I don’t miss Kyle.
Every time that I say these words, I am grateful. I am grateful for the legacy of Kyle’s life that lives on through this benediction. I am grateful that even though I am repeating the same words that I repeated at the end of every service this time seven years ago, I am not the same person. Kyle’s death changed me…I’ll admit that when I used to say these words, it was with an earthly perspective. Small things seemed big, big things seemed small…I’m not sure that I knew what loving, embracing, and living truly looked like. But in the days, months, and now years following Kyle’s death, I have learned more and more about what it means to have a Kingdom perspective. Although there is still pain, and heartache, and death, in the same breath there is life, grace, and redemption…and as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, we can experience that now…it’s not something reserved for eternity.
So to me, this benediction will always be more than just words. I choose to Love God because when life took me by surprise, God showed me that He is not shaken by surprises. I will embrace beauty because when I felt anger, grief, and sadness like I had never felt before God met me there and taught me some of the most beautiful lessons I’ve ever learned. I will live life to the fullest because I know that this life is a gift and such a small speck of time compared to the eternity that we will spend in heaven.
At Kyle’s funeral, his childhood Sunday school teacher spoke and said “Kyle, you have given us even more of a reason to long for heaven.”. I do long for heaven…but not just so that I can see Kyle again. I long for the moment when I stand face to face with my Savior and I can love, embrace, and truly live in all of His glory. It is my prayer, and I believe Kyle’s intention, that these words stir something in you and cause you to long for the same.
Jordan Browning has been at UBC since she moved to Waco to attend Baylor, and her husband has been here since its inception in 1995. The Brownings were very close friends with Kyle and Jen. Below is artwork that is in their living room, assuring that their three children-- Keely, Boone and Addy-- grow up under the influence and inspiration of Kyle's words.