Kobe and Keith
Something tragic happened a few weeks ago. Something unexpected. Something unfathomable and unbelievable. Something that just doesn’t make sense. Kobe Bryant and his daughter and 7 other people’s families were torn apart on Sunday, January 26th. In an instant.
We can all speculate as to the cause but in the end, nothing is going to bring them back. We are only left with questions. Questions that don’t seem to have answers right now.
I think about all of those kids growing up in not-so-great neighborhoods with not-so-great homes who have looked up to Kobe as an inspiration. He always spoke of not being defined by your past or your color or any malady but to keep moving forward and never give up. He not only said it, he did it. He would go out onto the court with torn ligaments and injuries because people were counting on him and he always kept his promises to his fans. He focused on hope and living out his dreams and he spent a lot of time working with kids to help them believe in their dreams too.
It is times like these so many people ask “If there is a loving God, why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why would a loving God take someone who is such an inspiration to so many and is doing so much good in the world?”
To me, something similar happened when I was just a teenager. I didn’t have a positive home life but thankfully I chose mentors that kept me on the straight and narrow throughout junior high, high school and college. I even chose some Christian musicians as my mentors. I would carefully listen to the words of the songs and they were like scriptures to help me repeat the promises of God through the dark times. I remember my first Christian album I ever bought. It was Keith Green’s “For Him Who Has Ears to Hear”. I wore out that album playing it daily.
Since I grew up in Orange County, California, I would go every Saturday night to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa where they had concerts. Keith Green would often play there. I remember meeting him and his wife Melody. She was nursing their first newborn at the time. They were this Jewish hippy couple who had found Jesus and they traveled often going out into the world to preach the gospel like Jesus did. Keith truly was doing what Jesus called us to do. His songs often rebuked the church and their apathy towards the oppressed and the homeless, poor and lost. He was frustrated….but he resonated with the. disconnected youth and those alter calls were huge. Lost kids getting found. It was an amazing experience to have the Holy Spirit so present in those concerts. My conversion stuck. It wasn’t a fad.
I became a big fan. He was pointing me to Jesus and he was helping me have a closer relationship with God. He and his wife put out the “The Last Days Newsletter” and I quickly got on the mailing list. I looked forward every month to getting that and I read every article a number of times. I loved that newsletter because it was filled with so much great art and illustrations and being a young artist myself, that appealed to me. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Even though my family was not supportive, it was nice to know someone appreciated artistic talent even if it was someone I never even met.
As the years went by, Keith put out a number of albums and had two more children with his wife Melody. He stayed my mentor throughout those years. He was at the height of his ministry at the time. He consistently brought so many young people to the Lord through his amazing, musical talent. He was a childhood protege whose song-writing, voice and piano playing were impressive, even by secular standards.
Then tragedy struck. He took a quick plane ride with his friends on their ranch property where they were taking in the homeless and drug addicts. They were only in the air 20 seconds before it fell to the ground and burst into flames. Like Kobe’s helicopter, the plane had 9 members. No survivors.
Along with Keith, were his two older children, Josiah 4 and Bethany 2. All three killed in the plane crash along with 6 others. At home, Melody, his wife, was with their one year old and she was also 6 weeks pregnant with their fourth child.
At the time, I was so shocked I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even imagine Melody losing the love of her life and her two children at the same time. How does one get through the days or the hours, minutes or even seconds filled with such grief and loss?
Why?!!, I cried aloud to God. “Why did it happen?” I asked my father. He said something that had to do with physics. “You can’t go outside the laws of physics”. Somehow that was a reasonable explanation to me at the time in one sense but in another…I wondered why God didn’t perform a miracle or protect him. He was doing so much good. Why would God not stop that tragedy?
So, I spent years being heartbroken with so many unanswered questions. I admired Melody Green so much because she opened up her grief to the world and we all walked together with her through it one day at a time. She handled everything with such grace, and contentment and strength. I still don’t know how she did it except that the Lord brought her through. She knew her husband was with Jesus. The one he loved the most and she was okay with that, although devastated. The kids of course, innocent two and four year olds in heaven with him.
To have the strength to keep going and raise a baby and deliver another one while you grieve three who have died, is nothing short of sainthood. She always has a smile on her face even through the tears.
So when Kobe’s helicopter crashed a couple of weeks ago , all of those memories came back like it was yesterday. I would hear interviews from the newscasters and friends saying, “What do we do? We just don’t know the first thing to get us through this” and so many don’t.
I don’t have all the answers except it’s not enough to give a hopeful sermon or talk to inspire. You have to show people what to do. How to navigate life when things don’t always go as you plan. To learn how to stay grounded when you’re in sinking sand.
Our ways are not God’s ways. He didn’t create robots. He’s given us free will and there are a lot of things that go wrong because of human error and poor judgment. Innocent people get hurt or killed as a result of everyone having the freedom to choose.
One thing I do know is that this world is not the final deal. The scriptures say, that absence in this life is presence with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8. I have seen many near death experiences on YouTube. They tell of such a peace and contentment they never felt before. They experienced the unconditional love of Jesus and they seriously did not want to come back. This has been comforting for me to hear. It’s not the people that die who are saved that suffer…it’s the ones left behind. They are finally home if they have accepted Jesus because He’s the door to knowing the true nature of God.
When I was 19, I knew this girl who would come to church by herself. Her name was Marny. She was only 16. She never missed a Sunday and always had a smile on her face. She went to church camp and ended up having a seizure under water and drowning. Once again, I asked God, “Why?” Why her? She was the sweetest girl I knew at the time! But then something happened. Her dad, mom and two brothers who were all atheists, all came to believe in Jesus and were saved through her death. That was a significant lesson for me. It taught me a lot. Marny was already saved but through her death, 4 more came to know Jesus.
Therefore, if one’s life is cut short in their earthly life, when it comes to eternity, if it brings many more to the Lord who would have been lost otherwise, then their death. Is. not in vain. Now I’m not saying this to negate all the pain and suffering of losing a loved-one. It’s horrific…but I’m only looking at it from the other perspective as it deals with eternity.
I think about what is going to happen to those kids whose mentor is now suddenly gone. They are traumatized. They have a choice. They can choose to have this tragedy bring them closer to God or farther away. It doesn’t ever work out to leave God at a time when He can comfort you the most. To trade in your grief for bitterness doesn’t work out in the end. I hope those kids that are Kobe fans, don’t reach for drugs or alcohol or act out in violence to escape the pain. I hope and pray that Kobe’s death will cause them to take the baton and continue the race of goodwill that Kobe left rather than choosing to go down a dark road.
In the Bible, something similar happened that was devastating. Job lost all of his children, his possessions and his health. His grief is laid out in the scriptures and his pain was so deep it caused him to be ill with boils all over his body.
The scriptures say, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:20–21)
How many times have we sat there in the midst of horrible grief and said, “blessed be the name of the Lord?!” Now that is true faith. To look beyond our circumstances and trust in the the fact that every wrong will be made right for those who love the Lord and have been called to His purpose. How many of us can truly believe this in the midst of heightened emotion? To rest in God’s peace even when you’ve lost everything?
This was a test for me as well. Nothing went how I expected. I married someone who never kept his promises and ended up losing everything of material worth and experienced homelessness and hunger without seeing what was going to be on the other side of the next day. I had to get to the point where that journey was to gain knowledge and wisdom beyond my understanding and to trust God no matter what.
Only through suffering can we gain understanding and compassion towards others who have suffered in similar ways. To have felt the pain they are feeling. To have navigated life in the midst of a fog of grief and having made it on the other side…you now are ready to help someone else as well and hold their hand and pull them up when they collapse in grief and tears. To make them feel they aren’t alone. God is with them and so are you.
This is what I believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit is. Going through the fire of suffering. Feeling the pain but at the same time, experiencing God in a very real way rescuing you. The miracles you experience make all of your doubts go away. You really feel He is carrying you every step of the way and you will never be the same. Your faith is huge and now you can share that with others.
Over 30 years after Keith Green’s tragic death, many have come forward stating that his death caused them to be a part of carrying that message of Jesus that he left on so many struggling teenagers. Those lost teenagers who heard the Good News from him, were saved and through his death, it motivated them to create ministries similar to what Keith Green was doing. I’m surprised today how many churches don’t have anything to with helping the poor, the abused, the oppressed and the addicted in their own neighborhoods. Keith Green was too. His song “Asleep in the light” talks about all of those self-righteous people in the church who close their eyes to the lost and hurting. I will leave the lyrics and a link in the description to his song.
ASLEEP IN THE LIGHT- Keith Green
Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down
Don't you care, don't you care
Are you gonna let them drown
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
"Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord"
You know it's all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in,
Oh, can't you see it's such a sin?
Cause He brings people to you door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you, be at peace"
And all heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You've left him out on the streets
Open up open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay
God's calling and you're the one
But like Jonah you run
He's told you to speak
But you keep holding it in,
Oh can't you see it's such a sin?
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can't fight
Cause it's asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can't even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
Don't close your eyes
Don't pretend the jobs done
Come away, come away, come away with Me my love,
Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, my love.
We fight in this country. We pick sides, we label, we attack our neighbors. Yet, when something like this happens, we come together and it’s beautiful. It reminds me of what America is supposed to be like. We are one country of individuals who have a heart and feelings and we all need love, support and encouragement. We should not forget this fact. Social media and news wants us to fight because bad news sells…but the American people are helpful, giving and kind. Turn off your tv and your phone and go help wipe a tear from someone’s eyes knowing that one day you will need someone to do the same for you. Let’s be there for each other.
8/12/2022 09:14:59 am
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10/10/2022 07:49:39 am
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